Today sees Underground taking another vinyl from the shelves of our archives and giving it a good blow… although there shouldn’t be much dust on this one. Cue FKA Twigs LP1.
Formerly a music video dancer, after training throughout her youth, FKA twigs or Tahliah Barnett released this, her debut album only 5 years ago. The record came after two initial EPs that showed the world Twigs is not just “that girl from the video” but a fully-fledged, multi-talented artist. From directing her videos to learning about EQ frequencies, Twigs hand crafted LP1 with unwavering creative control. Unafraid to get her hands dirty when it comes to her work, Twigs put her all into every inch of this vinyl with the intent to convey pure emotion.
While the term “experimental” gets thrown around as much as “south London sound” does these days, Twigs restlessly pushes the boundaries of sound and imagery until she’s pretty much part of the matrix. Mixing dreamscape sounds with sharp electronics and ethereal vocals, LP1 is an eclectic mix that sees nightmares combined with daydreams, the real with the artificial, and the abject with the virtuous.
Often compared to Björk in her experimentalist approach to her artistry, Twigs is a musician who is writing the book on just how much push and pull music can handle. In this exploration, sexuality finds itself at the forefront of every track, but it’s not necessarily overt – although at times she definitely is. Playing around with the power of the erotic, Twigs makes an album that oozes sex in all its glory, sensuality and griminess. Her ethereal pop undoubtedly harnesses this power, with an extraordinary sensitivity to the underused and suppressed eroticism that lives with all of us and that allows us the chance to define our essence in our terms.
Using the album as a catalyst for bettering oneself, Twigs incorporates unimaginable sounds with typical pop motifs and choir like vocals. The album begins with a ‘Preface’, an echoey number that sounds as if it was recorded in a cathedral before hip hop beats and distorted lyrics find their way into the spotlight. Repeated throughout this opening track is Thomas Wyatt’s famous line from ‘I Find no Peace’: “I love another, and thus I hate myself”. In an interview with Dazed, Twigs claimed that this mantra is “inscribed into the vinyl”.
Mixing beautiful vocals with glitches, Twigs’ songs often makes for a roller-coaster of sensation for the listener, ranging from feeling encapsulated by twigs’ music to being totally unsettled by it too. ‘Video Girl’ and ‘Numbers’ are defining tracks on the album which embody this notion. Luring her listeners into a false sense of security with her whimsical, encircling vocals, before disturbing them with a layering of deconstructed time signatures and lyrics of loss and lies. However, these tracks are balanced with others such as ‘Lights On’ and ‘Two Weeks’ which find organ like vocal ranges incorporated with distorted sound that instead of reflecting hardship evoke feelings of lust and yearning to trust another.
The flexibility of her cacophony of sound is truly a remarkable skill. Finally finding her feet in an industry she is passionate about is not only proof of her tenacity as an artist, but also how talented she is – specifically in hearing what others can’t and making it into music. In doing so, Twigs’ album finds an empowering equilibrium within dichotomies such as love and loss or sexual expression and objectification.
Summoning the elements from of trip-hop, grime and pop to do her dirty work, Twigs explores a whole spectrum of emotions all with an eroticism that is unmatchable. Despite LP1 being her debut, it’s a confidently carnal burst on the music scene that only but propels FKA Twigs into a sphere of experimental musicians really pushing the conventions of music making and sensual incorporation.