Surveillance occurs in a number of Gazelle Twin videos and it’s a theme easily translated on to larger stages too. In the small and, what should feel, intimate stage of the Old Print Works in Balsall Heath, Gazelle Twin manage to keep the audience firmly in the role of distant scrutiny. Two figures are on stage, hooded, faces obscured with stockings. The atmosphere that emanates from the duo is one of eerie anonymity. The short songs are beat heavy, rhythmic and repetitive, perfect for dancing, right? But to close your eyes and freestyle doesn’t feel right. This is observation dance music. The audience maintains a measured distance, not from lack of interest; all eyes are on the stage, but it feels inappropriate to step closer. Just as I notice this space, a member of staff steps forward and insists we all step back even further. No-one questions it.
The vocalist, in trademark blue tracksuit, is a nameless figure on the bare stage. Long brown synthetic hair pouring from the hood vaguely suggests of femininity. She sways mechanically or lunges from one precise spot to the other, as if taunting us for a fight from behind a cage. The sounds, both in beat production and vocal style/distortion are heavily reminiscent of The Knife, but the imagery couldn’t be further from their surrealism and romanticism. Gazelle Twin might look weird (a stocking can really fuck up your face) but they are most definitely of this world, a world of multi-storey car parks, poorly maintained urban play areas and 24-hour supermarkets. Fittingly, as the pulsing beat of ‘Belly of the Beast’ starts, five figures stomp into the small space we hastily cleared. Short in stature, each are identically dressed in blue hooded tracksuit and brown wig - what stronger pronouncement of femininity? Our performer’s baby gazelles step into the audience and mirror her movements, bringing a version of her closer to us. Sonically, it’s the highlight of the performance, Gazelle Twin’s sound at its most distinct, crunching beats and understated, but assured vocals. ‘I’ll take it like milk from a baby’, she repeats. It’s electric.
The mini gazelles depart, and leave the audience elated. But Gazelle Twin hone the energy levels in. On her knees, the vocalist rocks back and forth singing a bare, down-tempo tribute to the disco classic ‘I Feel Love’. Their version is not easy to dance to; this is not a party until she tells us so. Not until the dancers return for the third time is the audience’s role of observer dismantled. They push their way into the crowd and dance amongst us - at last we have our permission to join in.
Sarah Farina has a tough job. Following the participatory ‘Deep Aerobics’ performance by Miguel Gutierrez, the audience is properly knackered. She starts hard, but soon seduces everyone with the future bass sounds that mark her out. The night rounds off with drum n bass classics (everyone knows the moves) and 90s reggae track ‘No, No, No’ by Dawn Penn (everyone knows the words). After the audience’s trepidation during Gazelle Twin, Farina knew exactly what we needed.