As 2015 wound down, Gazelle Twin was playing out the final moments of the Unflesh tour. To mark its end, and that of the album campaign as a whole, Elizabeth Bernholz brought the Gazelle Twin live show to the Barbican's for a one-off performance. The event itself was shrouded in secrecy; when I spoke to Bernholz ahead of the show, she was reluctant to reveal too much but did give away one crucial detail. Fleshed Out was not only going to mark the end of the tour, but also the end of the tracksuited persona that Bernholz had taken on for the record.

Taking place in the Barbican's Cinema 1 - a sloped screening room in the building's basement - the result was a strange, yet affecting live performance that utilised film, dance, and the unique setting of the show to deliver something that transcended a traditional live performance. The anxious energy of Unflesh was heightened and a sense of genuine unpredictability was present throughout.

With the tour over, and the dust settled from Fleshed Out, I decided to catch up with Bernholz, and filmmaker Esther Springett, to discuss the show in more detail.

The show opened with a short film [directed by Esther Springett]. It felt like it deliberately tried to turn ordinary spaces - car parks, cafes and underpasses - into alien and somewhat hostile places. How did you decide on the places to film and the way you'd frame them?

Esther Springett: We chose spaces that would displace Gazelle Twin from the domestic world. Taking liminal spaces, empty of human inhabitants and imagining how Gazelle Twin may dwell, hide, rest and play in these spaces. As well as support from Barbican, the film was also supported by Fierce Festival, Birmingham which this year, was themed around setting performances in underground and overlooked spaces of the city so as to give them a new lease of life, celebrating the mundanity of these majestic motorway underpasses, spaghetti junctions and the bowels of the city.

Elizabeth Bernholz: To me, all these locations have an inherent alienness to them and the potential for hostility and horror, especially the bathroom; actually, it's kind of a classic horror setting in lots of ways. The non-domestic, liminal spaces as Esther says, are not ones you would naturally want to inhabit for any length of time and I'm really interested in that sense of displacement. To me, that feeling is the same as being lost within, or at odds with your own body, both are a kind of loss of identity. In Spaghetti Junction and the sub-level water tunnels of the Barbican, there was a similar kind of eerie calmness - a sense of danger and that you shouldn't be there - but also a retreat from people and the rest of the familiar world. A kind of "anti-home" - if that's even a thing.

There's a sense of anxiety to the film, which I felt was amplified by the soundtrack - all nervous breathing, rustling shower curtains and droning electronics. How much of this was informed by the film? Or were the more drone elements created separately?

Bernholz: I think a "sense of anxiety" might just have become my trademark.

Springett: The harshness and masculinity of these mega-constructions contrasted by the closeness of Gazelle Twin's soundtrack of bodily noises, breaths, and sighs was something that came together after exploring how Gazelle Twin could occupy and play out the end of her story in these spaces. We fixated on the drones of the motorways and an electric power station (some of which was in the popular key of G). With the cafe scenes, I shot them in subterfuge style, with odd angles and lingering details of leatherette seats and Lino flooring. I shot this after Gazelle Twin had produced a section of the soundtrack which has these really uneasy murmurings and internal body noises. Almost like Gazelle Twin is trying to digest something in a restless and self-conscious way, not quite comfortable in the familiarity of this particular public space.

Bernholz: Yeah, I remember that very distinct type of paralysing anxiety in moments of my child- and teen-hood. I really wanted to capture that in a non-musical way. So the closely recorded, almost internalised voices are how it feels to be awake in a nightmare, unable to form words or scream. There's something very nauseating about the contrast of sounds of everyday life - like really gnarly music coming from another room, indistinct "everyday" voice tones, a bathroom fan, or the traffic outside - all of that going on relentlessly despite this awful, internalised personal trauma... I'm sure everyone experiences that at some point in their lives?

Whilst the album art and music videos for Unflesh have made a point of putting the tracksuited figure front and centre, we only caught fleeting glimpses of them in the film. In fact, the longest shot of the figure is one near the end where they are lying on their side with their back to the audience. What was your intent behind this?

Springett: For me it signifies Gazelle Twin resting. For how long it's unclear. The film ends indefinitely. I think the film is quite playful and the audience may be lulled into a false sense of horror every now and then; what the eye doesn't see is what's scary, but blink and you'll miss it.

Bernholz: Yeah it's indefinite really. We only wanted to offer glimpses or just a sense of a presence. We didn't have a set narrative, we just wanted pick out the dark potential of those spaces rather than focus on her as the subject. I now think that the film could almost be a kind of a prequel to the album, starting out in the environments that overwhelm and turn her inwards, only to then force out a kind of violence. So that end shot with her laying on the mound of gravel has a sort of childlike and feral quality but is calm as well, it's as if she is "at home" in this odd, urban wasteland.

The performance itself felt very different to anything I'd seen before. For a start the film set my nerves on a knife edge - I was close to being a paranoid mess before you walked on stage. Was this the state you intended for your audience?

Springett: If that's how you felt then great!

Bernholz: Yeah, that's great to hear! I knew that the cinema would give it a very different angle, and that was the basis of the entire show, really. In the cinema you are totally free to lose yourself to a world created onscreen and to allow yourself to be subjected to all kinds of emotions - those buried deep, or those completely outside your lived experience. I am drawn to horror as a genre in particular because it educates you in dealing with types of fear and anxiety, it makes you question things intimately. I wanted people to feel that same way - to be sucked into this dreamy strangeness and feel convinced that the unease from the film has leaked into the auditorium.

The use of lighting and bare staging was also interesting. On the one hand it felt very Lynchian - like a dream sequence where your brain only fills in the really necessary details - and on the other it felt as if we were inside a body, particularly given the warm red lights that were used during 'I Feel Blood'. How did you work on the lighting used in the show?

Bernholz: Well that's a great comparison. Lynch is obviously the master of the uncanny cinema experience, so it's hard to get away from that when performing in front of a red curtain! Cinema 1 has a womb-like feel, but then most cinemas in the dark red, low-light often do. I adore the Barbican as a building and a concept and loved the fact that, for the show, the audience had to travel right down to the sub-level to get in, and then the whole auditorium was quite steep, [like] going deeper into the bowels. So with that I wanted to let the film set the mood and disturb people just enough, and then perform with minimal effects, allowing the presence of the performers and the music do the work, rather than say, using a backdrop of continuous visuals or OTT lighting or smoke etc which is what we'd normally have in a club setting. I think people probably expected that, but it's the opposite of what I wanted to create. It had to feel like the performance wasn't necessarily meant to happen in that space, that the audience had seen a film and were now sort of lost between realities, or hallucinating.

You had dancers (Aquira, Nevina, and Nicole) perform with you during the show but only for a few tracks. How did you decide which tracks they would perform on and what was the reason behind this?

Bernholz: It would have been too much and kind of impractical to have dancers throughout, and we had limited time for the choreography - just a few hours on the day. The aim with the three dancers was to amplify this sense of the uncanny, and to support the themes of the songs they performed during. Without them there to fill out the space and interact, I think it would have felt a bit too empty, so hopefully it felt like their presence was just enough.

For me it felt like at first, despite dressing the same as you, they rejected you but by the end there was a sense of acceptance, or perhaps understanding. Was that the intention?

Bernholz: I'd say there was more mimicry going on than anything, like in 'Belly of the Beast' where they went out into the aisles and stalked members of the audience whilst I stalked the stage. That song is all about squaring-up to oppression and showing no fear, so it helped to have a posse of other twins that could beef that up. On 'Anti-Body' we performed in total blackout to highlight that sense of being lost in an endless dark space. And for the last one, 'Exorcise', the dancers did the routine they did in the video by Chris Turner - it was the same dancers, so that was really great to have them there.

Was there anything about the show that challenged you?

Bernholz: I think my main reservation throughout was the risk that this might not feel as manic or full of energy as the club/festival gigs me and Jez (my live partner) have grown so familiar with from touring the past 2 years. It's a pretty disarming thing to perform how I do, with this music, in a really quiet, intimate space like that, with a seated audience not making any movements or noise, and not much else visually or audibly to fill the space. The sound was very clear, close and quiet and it felt utterly different to our normal shows - at first we weren't sure if it felt right, but a few people afterwards said they felt like they'd gone into another world during the show and that in some ways it was more intense than the usual, very loud show. So that's good.

With the Unflesh tour over and the tracksuit "dead" have you begun thinking about the next Gazelle Twin project?

Bernholz: I have, but it's going to take a lot of thought and I need to let that distance from the blue hoody set in a bit longer as it's only been a few weeks since I packed all the costumes up one last time. That persona has become so iconic, and so all-encompassing for me as a representation of part of myself and my history, and also as a live performer. I cut my teeth on this tour, and it made me move and sing in a very specific way, so it's actually hard to imagine anything else right now. I have lots of different ideas that I'm working towards and I hope to try these out next year in some form or another. Ultimately, the music has to come first and then the persona (or personas), but I'm definitely not done with the costumes that's for sure.