A striking debut from a rising artist worth watching out for.
Mike Diver 2011-09-01
Behind the Gazelle Twin name is one woman, Elizabeth Walling, whose enrapturing voice has already turned the heads of several critics, earning the Brighton-based singer top marks for this, her debut album. Her vocals are a thing of quivering beauty, a ghostly cry in the night, detached from the reality around us. They creep up like a forgotten memory, buried deep, emerging with dazzling effect. But this isn’t quite the perfect LP that some have painted it as – like the majority of debuts, it wears its influences rather too broadly to fully stand out from a crowd including Fever Ray and Björk: both stylistic touchstones, mined to different extents across The Entire City.
The opening title-track’s first seconds of percussive thump and brassy toots are reminiscent of These New Puritans' phenomenal Hidden LP; then her voice comes in, wordless and effortless, and it’s like the Southend-spawned art-rockers have found a beneath-the-radar siren to call their causes to the furthest hills. Come Men Like Gods, Walling has retreated from the coalface of the contemporary cutting-edge to channel the devilish synth grind of Depeche Mode at their most menacing; on I Am Shell I Am Bone, the silhouette of Karin Dreijer Andersson comes into clear focus, and Nest is a fine facsimile of a roughly sketched cut from Björk’s sensual and intimate Vespertine LP. Parallels present themselves at almost every turn taken across these 12 tracks – what binds them, though, is Walling’s voice. Flexible, adaptable, she’d be a fine guest contributor to any electronic producer in search of a vocalist; indeed, it’s through such a project that Walling may earn a clearly warranted breakthrough.
That, or when her second album takes the mighty potential presented here and refines the end product into something that sings with singular intent. The Entire City is a striking collection that, at its best – the haunting Changelings, where she whispers and sighs into the listener’s ear like an uncomfortably forward first date; and the Glasser-in-full-flight splendour of Concrete Mother – is uncommonly captivating. It’s only the (inevitable and acceptable) referrals to wider-known artists that loosen its hold on the listener. For now, though, it’s a fine start; and when Walling’s talents fully blossom, expect a set truly worthy of five-star acclaim. The Mercury Prize panellists should probably pencil her in for 2013’s shortlist today, and use the time saved to consider some metal.