FKA Twigs: Cool when Twiggy, not when Biggie

Having just finished seeing the live stream of FKA Twigs at Coachella (more on this later), and ahead of her performance at Sonar 2015 in June, which I will be attending, inspo has come to me to write a few lines about one of the biggest earworms I had last year. Actually, still today I sometimes wake up in the morning and my body just needs to listen to her greatest hit (to call it somehow) to date: ‘Two Weeks‘. A strictly physical need stemming from the urge to listen to sexy experimental sounds that at times remind you of early 20th-century factories, overlapping percussive touches with sexy melodies, synths and an airy, ethereal, sultry voice that creates an indescribable dark sci-fi and I daresay even highly sexually-connoted atmosphere.

I’m not one to buy souvenirs whenever I go abroad. Instead, I buy music. All kinds of music. Sometimes without even having listened to it. I guess I find it exciting, risky, reckless. And that’s what happened when I purchased LP1, FKA Twigs‘ debut album. Having seen her name repeatedly in articles (ah, the hype!) and LP1 posters in the streets of Oz, yet not having listened to any of her songs, I went into one of the JB Hi-Fi shops in Perth and asked for that album announced in that glossy turquoise poster with a bit of a disturbing figure (turns out it is the real Tahliah Barnett, not a wax statue!). Sold out. Darn! But as I would become a regular in that particular shop for one week, the very last day I was there, the shop assistant, to whom I had kinda become an acquaintance, approached me and said, ‘Hey, the FKA Twigs album has arrived, and so has Daughter’s!’ Kudos to JB Hi-Fi shop assistants who remember their customers’ requests the moment they step into their shop.

LP1 cover
LP1 cover

Back in my place, I played LP1 for the first time. Uff! How am I supposed to digest this… I like it, but I don’t. I can sing it, but I can’t. Too rythmic and arhythmic at the same time. Maybe you could dance to it, but chances are you’d feel ridiculous. You can’t actually dance to it without feeling silly unless you have Tahliah’s self-confidence on stage and are wearing the weirdest outfit showing, doubtless, a bit of skin. So…what the heck is this?

LP1 is a collection of 10 kicks that will do some serious job to your body. Those kicks that leave you knackered. Those kicks that go straight to the vein and it takes one hour to recover from. And if you were wondering, no, I have never taken drugs (the hardest one I’ve taken is drinkable Coke!), but that’s what I believe they’d do to you. You can’t listen to FKA Twigs when doing anything else. Nope. Forbidden. The magnetism in the melodies won’t let your brain do anything but listen to it. Same as for the lyrics. ‘Contrast‘ is probably the word that defines best whatever is going on in each of the tracks and which Tahliah also reflects in quite a few of her interviews when talking about her creativity and her early years: sexual arrogance along with self-loathing, dominatrix versus dominated, independence versus neediness, strength versus fragility. In a nutshell, purely human states.

Before LP1, FKA Twigs had also released EP1, from which I certainly recommend ‘Ache‘ and ‘Hide‘, where the clock-y / machine-like sound effects slowing down progressively started appearing and would take a rather relevant role on LP1. (N.B.: Looks like these latter links will disappear soon, as they are in a temporary domain.) Off her EP2, ‘Ultraviolet‘ is perhaps the track that least represents what her LP1 would sound like.

And how does all this translate to stage performance? Certainly, Tahliah Barnett is one of the most seductive dancers and singers I have ever seen on screen, and screen is to be understood here as her TV performances and music clips, most of which she directs herself and are not viewable unless you have the YouTube security setting off (ehem!). However, after seeing her performance today at Coachella, I feel a bit disappointed. I got bored. Bored to death. Even if in this interview on KEXP (around 11:00) she affirmed she was working both on the subtleties and also on adjusting her performance for bigger audiences, unfortunately, that’s not what I have seen today in the Coachella live stream. What will she do at Sonar? I don’t know, but I’ll certainly try and get as close to the stage as possible to see those subtleties she talks about and that she does master, even if they are inevitably imperceptible for 85% of the audience, that is, those standing 4 meters away from the stage.

Also, when sexual connotations are present in your music (that’s regular practice nowadays, and in the case of FKA Twigs, it goes without saying), it is very easy to cross the line, especially if moving images are involved. The line separating what is classy and what is not is clear to me. The latter is precisely what I believe FKA Twigs has done in her latest release, ‘Glass & Patron‘, the first track we have got to know off her upcoming EP3 (not much brain wracking in the titles!). Get your kids away, and enjoy it. Or not. I didn’t.

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