FKA Twigs is currently being hailed as the new princess of R&B. And rightly so. From Jessie J backing dancer to releasing one of the most startling and entrancing debuts of the year, she’s come a long way.
It’s impossible to talk about FKA Twigs (real name Tahlia Barnett) without discussing her visual artistry. From the covers of her previous EPs to her sometimes shocking videos, she evolves from a china doll to an alien-beauty with oversized eyes, a golden goddess suggestively pouring water out of a finger, and a shadowed figure being strangled by a lover. Not since Bjork have we seen such a complete artist, every aspect of her music career meticulously planned and inventive.
None more so than the actual music. Most commonly described as R&B (and compared to the icy cool of Aaliyah), her music stretches the genre to its barebones limits. Despite a plethora of well-known producers, such as Dev Hynes, Paul Epworth and Sampha, LP1 is utterly cohesive. The production is sparse, spectral and stark; the sounds of processed beats, pulsing synth bass lines and shattering electronica on, for example, singles Pendulum or Two Weeks sounding familiar yet utterly alien, each texture shattering in a vacuum.
Above all, though, LP1 is deeply sexual, with lyrics consumed with carnal desires. “When I trust you we can do it with the lights on” she purrs on Lights On, before hurtling into the throbbing Two Weeks and her ecstatic vocal sighs of “mouth open, you’re high”. Hours centres on the lyric “I could kiss you for hours” above production that fractures, breaks and implodes. For its four and a half minute length, time quite literally stops and hovers in an oblivion of ecstasy, perfectly capturing that feeling of being utterly consumed by a partner. Later, on Numbers, she becomes more accusatory: “was I just a number to you?” she questions above trip-hop rhythms and echoing percussion. The result is an intoxicating album that’s frighteningly yet alluringly sensual, appealing to the most primal of instincts.
The success of the album is also down to Barnett’s breathy vocals, at once vulnerable, fragile, innocent, haunting and melancholic. Her sighs may sound girlish (perhaps disturbingly so given the lyrical content), but there’s a real depth of emotion and maturity – a human in an otherworldly soundscape.
LP1 is an album that’s far from courting the mainstream. It’s low on hooks and variation, whilst a couple of standout tracks from her EPs are curiously missing (namely Water Me and Papi Pacify). But does that even matter? This is the product of an artist with a singular vision, who stands far away from, and above, the crowd. I could listen for hours.
* Two Weeks
Listen: LP1 is available now.