Everyone’s first reaction to the art of FKA Twigs is the same: what-is- she? Guesses range from alien lifeform to shapeshifting nymph when it comes to the London singer, formally Tahliah Barnett, whose image is as striking in the background of Jessie J and Ed Sheeran videos as in her own, unnerving clips. But the question persists as one tries to decide exactly what kind of music Twigs is making. And those answers are even more scattered.
Many listeners trying to pin her down call her a neo-Aaliyah, reacting to her lighter-than-air RnB vocals. Others will hear the Afro-futurism of Erykah Badu or the cutting edge beats of James Blake. Jumping from song to song you could detect Kid A era Radiohead just as easily as Enya or Brian Eno.
A pair of shorter releases (EP1 in 2012, EP2 in 2013) drew us in with the aforementioned visuals, but finally on LP1 her weirdness seeps into every crack and crevice of the music. Rhythms are stretched and smashed together. Textures flash across the screen for mere moments. Energy is served in maddeningly small portions, drawing back when we’re dying to dive in.
Throughout the album’s 10 tracks Twigs braids the subjects of power, intimacy and image into one unbreakable cord that runs through her relationships. On ‘Video Girl’ we get a sense of how she submits herself as public property when she appears in high profile promotional videos. People recognize her as “the girl from the video” and she feels like a product being consumed. Whatever she is inviting someone to do with the ‘Lights On’ in the lyrics of the second track, she needs a degree of trust to hand over the power of viewership.
Twigs details her love and lust in soundscapes that are incredibly lush without repeating the same notes of emotion. The echoing synths of ‘Hours’ sound like falling through a black hole of sleepy kisses and whispered affections. On the very next song, the rattling percussion of ‘Pendulum’ sounds like the contents of Twigs’ head knocking around as someone shakes up her sense of self-worth. She plays out the same situations from wildly different angles, like a sonic Rashomon bringing her accounts full circle.
The peak of Twigs’ passion, as well as her most breathtaking performance, comes on ‘Two Weeks.’ The frigid, restrained melody betrays lines like “my thighs are apart for when you’re ready to breathe in” and the tension is swept up by a hypnotic wave of bass. We hear every force at Twigs’ command until she unleashes it all and promises “give me two weeks, you won’t recognize her.” The music is captivating and nondescript, vigorous and soothing. The combination is lethal.
Of all the inventive touches on LP1, perhaps the most unexpected choice is the lack of any guest vocals or big-name beatmakers. In the current climate of clickbait and a hungry hype machine, it’s equally impressive and refreshing that Twigs chose to maintain control over every note. In fact, she has become more self-sufficient than ever by learning to produce her own music, earning claim to a truly independent vision that even art pop auteurs like Kanye West can’t boast. No one would have faulted Twigs for trying to reel in a few fans of Solange or Kendrick Lamar with a quick verse (but as a side note to Solange and Kendrick: what are you waiting for? Get this girl’s number!)
As a finished product it’s clear that there is no room for another voice on LP1. Songs like “Kicks” that quietly lament “I tell myself it’s cool/ For me to wait for you” are confessional in a way that must be performed alone. She can’t be crowded by other minds when she is so focused on understanding her own.
Study LP1 for a lesson in restraint and vivid textures, or let your mind go blank for an ethereal trip through one artist’s psyche. If the answers to any mysteries are on this record, then that’s exactly what FKA Twigs wanted you to find.
LP1 is out August 12 via Young Turks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.