Never too late to Twig On
2014 was the year where music artist FKA Twigs emblazoned every music publication. Her music caused a viral storm vigorously spiralling from London to Singapore, New York to Berlin, Melbourne to Paris. Not to mention all the other corners of the Globe which became bewitched by her otherworldly, futuristic R’n’B.
FKA Twigs’ extra-terrestrial music is characterised by sporadic synth punches, glitches and unyielding basslines. She bears the voice of an urban high priestess, with whirling rhythms and alternating tempos at her command. Her hushed, breathy voice possesses the same delicacy as the veins on a leaf – but its purity packed with a punch. Her voice can be transformed into something sinfully seductive at times.
FKA Twigs’ face is in many aspects like her music and comprised of odd pairings which work together in a peculiarly fascinating way. Your eyes can easily find themselves lost within its maze of intrigue. Her half almond, half disc-shaped bug eyes are paired with lips chiselled with artist precision, into a compact pout as-plump-as-pillows.
She’s the queen of sassy ceremonial braids and wispy baby curls. FKA Twigs’ tresses have served as inspiration for DNKY and The Blonds’ catwalks, alongside Phil Poynter’s recent editorial for LOVE magazine. Her do’s have even been copied by the likes of Katy Perry and Rita Ora – but just like her authentic sounds, Twigs alone is the real deal…
Jump back two month’s time and I couldn’t have given less of a twig about FK-whatever.
I had listened to some of her music before but cast off its jutting rhythms as a messy accumulation of noise. My ears stubbornly refused to strain themselves to hear her near-whispered singing. Two of her earlier YouTube tracks played and two others rapidly skipped through, I put FKA Twigs to rest back down on the ground.
Meanwhile, a massive boom erupted and she was being plastered in every cool arts and culture magazine. Storming album reviews came stampeding in, whipping up a frenzy I gladly distanced myself from. Fast forward to one Sunday in December and I pick up my favourite weekend supplement, The Sunday Times’ CULTURE Magazine. FKA Twigs’ alien-like face was plastered on the front and her debut album LP2 ranked #2. At this point, curiosity washed over me. What exactly was causing people to fall ear-deep in love? I figured I might as well suck up my pride and give the songstress another shot, unfurling my ears to new possibilities.
So I listened to LP1 from start to finishandhadalreadyclickedbacktothestartagainbeforeIcouldregisterwhatwasgoingon. My later encounter with FKA Twigs could not have been more different than the first. This time around my ears were receptive to each and every beat. I realised FKA Twigs undeniably deserves praise for making each musical element, which just shouldn’t fit together, miraculously work.
Above of all, it was the melodising power of her voice which struck a chord with me. It produced hypnotic effects I couldn’t believe I’d escaped unscathed from before. I think in many cases, her unusual music just requires a real warming up to. It’s definitely worth a revisit. My discovery that FKA Twigs was also a professionally trained dancer, songwriter and producer, secured her seriously cool kudos.
LP1 opens with Preface and FKA Twigs harking eerily beautiful, high-pitched staccato notes. In a choir-girl register she echoes Sir Thomas Wyatt’s ‘I love another, and thus I hate myself’ with a cut-class tongue. The introduction of a bulky, offbeat bass and sluggish, growling vocals adds a far more sinister dimension. The ears are swept up into a deliciously dark, grimey gothic gospel. FKA Twigs’ devoutly controlled and tone-pitched vocals serve as a sublime contrast with the clunky background rhythm. Her haunting vocals harmonise all elements of musical discord and bind them into a strangely stunning symphony.
Album highlights include Lights On, a fusion of breathy sensuality and timid vulnerability. Middle Eastern & Asian influences are blended with the sounds of creaks, dripping water and fast paced clicks. A luscious R’n’B style verse and a chorus spoken in quick anticipation wrap up this song nicely. Hours is a mishmash of Portishead & Tricky trip-hop sounds, brilliantly restyled with FKA Twigs’ own provocative touch, ‘How would you like it if I suck before I bite but it wasn’t too hard so it felt alright?’ Numbers is an album favourite, with each verse taking a tantalising and unexpected turn. FKA Twigs presses her vocals harder. Overtly erotic gasps and hiccups lead into an impressive crescendo with thudding basses warring against her high pitched notes.
While the sounds of Video Girl and Pendulum didn’t really swing it for me, Twigs’ debut single definitely deserves a mention. Two Weeks was lauded for its golden tinged music video where FKA Twigs sits on a throne looking a hybrid Egyptian-Grecian goddess. It’s a refreshing fusion of avant-garde, electronic and R’n’B sounds. The lyrics are visceral and bedfellows with physicality. The suggestive ‘You know I’d quench that thirst// I can treat you better than her’ eventually unravels in the second verse into ‘You know I’d put you first// I can fuck you better than her.’ Vulgar? Maybe to some. Although one of FKA Twigs’ biggest assets are her honest lyrics: she’s simply narrating her version of truth. There’s an undeniable vulnerability to this song which softens more brazen reproaches.
LP1 closes with Kicks a moody song with an electric percussion. This song is just as much about sexual pleasure as it is displacement and loneliness. A strong and delicate finish to a strong and delicate album. Throughout her album FKA Twigs doesn’t undergo metamorphosis from a sultry siren, to a jilted lover and bashful, childlike innocence. She manages to take on all these personas simultaneously and gives a convincing emotional performance which engages her listeners’ emotions likewise.
‘Vulnerability is the strongest state to be in. How boring would it be if we were constantly dominant or constantly submissive?’
FKA Twigs’ music undoubtedly stays true to her philosophy. It must be the secret to its empowering and emotive hold over us too.