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  • Filed under: Review
  • 02/05/2013

Gazelle Twin Mammal EP

There's been no shortage of melancholy, female-fronted, reverb-drenched pop in the wake of Fever Ray, and Gazelle Twin (a.k.a. Elizabeth Walling) specializes in just this. Of course, it's a bit reductive to lump this wave of acts together based on gender (Austra, Emika, and iamamiwhoami provide three more ready examples), but there is undeniably a sonic line running from this material to labels like Tri Angle. This is all to suggest that Gazelle Twin's ethereal pop has been in vogue for a minute now, and Mammal, a deluxe EP split between Walling's originals and remixes, makes a strong case for the notion that this kind of music is reaching standard-issue status. However, its ether-like quality does make for ample remix material, and this is readily exploited by some of the record's guests.

"This Is My Hand" is a confessional opener, and its sparse, arpeggio-led arrangement of beats and pads provides a backdrop for cryptic lyrics about "[turning] away" and "blood gushing." Although it reaches a beautiful crescendo, its remove is unappealing, and one hankers for a less dulled sentiment, as Walling's sleepy drift does little to amplify her lyrics. Clint Mansell has been involved in plenty of overblown melodrama over the course of his career, and his remix hones in on that aspect of the original. The composer preserves the vocal and lessens the track's pulse, adding a grim, string-led base, but much of the original's feel remains. Walling's next piece, "Heartbeat," fares slightly better—her mantra-like repetition of "like a heartbeat" in the second half reminds of producers tweaking a single line over the course of a track, as she subtly changes her inflection until the whispered finale.

"I Turn My Arm" is far and away the best original here, as Walling is finally given a worthy undercurrent. Its corroded bass drums and skittery hi-hats help extract her choral inclinations, and she's finally able to let her vocals soar. Alixander III uses the track's low-end rumble as the basis for his streamlined remix, reducing Walling's vocal to sighing breaths and incorporating a square, irritably acidic bassline. The original's choral heights reappear midway through, as towering walls of her voice make up a formidable breakdown. Kuedo goes the opposite route on his remix of the track. He latches onto the from-the-gut climax of the original and spreads it out, amid panning arpeggios and yearning, sci-fi chords. It's entirely beatless, but as one might expect, its sound design is very impressive. Renaissance Man's take is similarly glossy. The duo implements stepping, half-time drums and a wonkily metallic backdrop for Walling's vocal, but unlike the other editions, it ignores the track's peak, virtually flatlining with few changes in speed or direction. It's less successful as a result. Both Walling and her remixers are at their best when they drop their defenses, as it's only during these moments that Mammal rises above the subdued tendencies of the aforementioned trend.

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