Three years on from her critically acclaimed album The Entire City, Elizabeth Bernholz returns to her Gazelle Twin alias in an attempt to shed her skin and expose the terrors beneath. Stripping back the cinematic excesses of her debut effort, Unflesh offers a raw and often chilling sonic palette. This is not to say Bernholz has completely altered her sound; haunting atmospherics and guttural low end still form the backbone of her work, however they have been reshaped and destabilised by paranoid confusion.
An extremely personal affair, Unflesh explores troubled youth, mental trauma and fear, yet the obsidian tones and shifting beats remain relatable and deeply moving. Exact subject matter includes panic attacks – represented by the brooding, multi-layered title track – euthanasia, via the subtle percussion and smooth melodies of ‘Good Death’, and even suicide, as Bernholz relives a failed attempt through militant rhythms and echo-laden vocals.
As the album progresses, it becomes increasingly hard not to use the phrase morbidly beautiful; separately, the sounds and subject matter certainly fit the term, but together they are more, they deserve better. ‘Premonition’, which covers the subject of miscarriage, matches softly hissing synths with heartbreaking lyrics – “You are, so small/No eyes, no fingers/My arms, can’t lift/ You up, to kiss you” – bringing forth an enveloping sense of compassion. Elsewhere, ‘I Feel Blood’ showcases the sexual power Bernholz’s voice contains, whilst the final stages of ‘A1 Receptor’ are nothing short of terrifying.
As engaging as the gritty realism of Unflesh may be, there is always a danger that the brutality could prove too much. Thankfully Bernholz avoids this pitfall, undercutting the album with serene, organic harmonies and seductive grooves. A impressive development on the artist’s established direction, Unflesh commands total attention throughout its twelve tracks, providing an immersive look into the depths of the human psyche.