Artist: FKA Twigs
Record Label: Young Turks
Release Date: 6/8/2014
UK singer/songwriter/producer/dancer puts the art back into twisted pop and wonky R'n'B on her debut full-length
The 00's and the post-2010 years have had a bit of a way with saturating often rather bogus revival scenes. '90's indie, '80's electro-pop and more recently late '90's/early 00's r'n'b have been run through the ringer in terms of a sort of re-celebration on various artists' behalf. There's nothing wrong with paying a little homage every now and again, obviously. But the population of faded, hazy and stoned r'n'b artists that have followed in the wake of The Weeknd and latter-day Drake has this reviewer wondering if he never needs to hear another slightly far-out but altogether insipid project again.
It would be easy to lump Gloucestershire-born singer-songwriter, producer and dancer Tahliah Barnett, aka FKA Twigs, in with the new wave r'n'b brigade, but the truth is that 'LP1', just like the couple of EP's she released last year, is much more than that. There's more than a modicum of the virtuoso singing associated with said genre in her scintillating falsetto for sure, but there's plenty of other elements pulled together to form a genuine sculpture. 'LP1' jumps between the experimentalism of Grimes, the hyper-sexuality of Aaliyah and throws in a dash of Kate Bush's eccentricity here and there for something that genuinely sounds like not much else. 'LP1' is a record that sees art put back into a genre in a way that has never really been waltzed with before.
Musically, it's the detail of Twigs' production that makes this album such a wonder. 'Preface' sets the tone near-perfectly. It's just under 2 minutes long but still an intensely detailed offering of odd-ball and glitchy trap, Barnett's siren-like delivery soaring over a righteous low-end rumble. It's a precedent that holds no bars for the next track 'Lights On'. Instrumentally the track twists its way through unexpected alleyways comprising of weirdo electric guitar lines and staccato synth bleepery, levelled out by a sense of accessible romance as she coos "when I trust you we can do it with the lights on" sweetly.
The gorgeous wonk of lead-off single "Two Weeks" is the most instrumentally direct and accessible moment here and is an anthem in its own right. 'Numbers' is an unnerving, cyclical footwork-inspired jaunt that weaves itself a core of sadness not previously touched upon on the record. "Was I just a number to you?" asks Barnett as the song gets more layered melodically but in a perpetually icy and heartbroken way on the hook. 'Closer' is a heart-warming broadcast from a secret cave on a forgotten beach, full of mystery, romance and momentary perfection.
Lyrically Barnett's fascination lies in both romance and the fleshy, au natural sexual expression that has always been the forerunner in R'n'B, even dating back to Marvin Gaye. But the way she plays with both sexuality and sex is a poetic deliverance one might usually associate with the likes of Wild Beasts. 'Hours' is weighed out by both eerie but somewhat seductive submissiveness ("am I suited to fit all your needs?") as well as demanding confidence ("How would you like it if my lips touched yours and they stay close baby 'til the stars fade out?").
On one hand, 'Kicks' plays on the idea of revelling in one's own sexual freedom when alone ("I just touch myself and say I'll make my own damn way") as well as sounding desperately lonely on the hook as she sings "tell me what do I do when you're not here?". On "Weak Spot" she endorses a well-worn but not shoddy dialect that runs the thin line between creepy and seductive in an almost Robert Smith-inspired fashion as she whispers the verses breathily. The track fades in and out for its duration, maximizing both the intoxicating weirdness and sweeping, far-away scope of its melodic passages.
Essentially then, 'LP1' is what the modern age hipster R'n'B fan has needed ever since the sound started becoming more dated than it did refreshing, but to enclose Barnett and her music within those brackets would be a mistake. It's an album that, although distinctly odd and in some cases distinctly sexual, is more than capable of garnering a mass appeal, as has already been somewhat proven by the mulling of it by a multitude of alternative music publications. 'LP1' is a detailed, complex world of its own, and it's a world that seems more and more inviting the longer you dwell in it.
Key Tracks: 'Two Weeks', 'Hours', 'Closer'
For Fans Of: Aaliyah, Grimes, Kate Bush