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Culture

FKA twigs Scares up Some Seriously Weird R&B

Leave the lights on for debut album 'LP1.'

By Gregory Adams 14 Aug 2014 | TheTyee.ca

Gregory Adams is a regular contributor to The Tyee.

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FKA twigs back when she was drumming for KISS.

There hasn't exactly been a dearth of murky R&B these last few years, whether via Toronto figure the Weeknd plumbing the depths of debauchery over various downer soundscapes, Los Angeles-based Banks adding trip-hop textures beneath her scale-climbing vibrato, or How to Dress Well's Tom Krell singing of loss over a swell of synthetic ocean sounds.

United Kingdom artist FKA twigs may have just outdone them all though, with this week's release of her fiercely freaky first full-length, the appropriately-titled LP1. It's an album juxtaposing the ethereal heights of her natural-born pipes with an underbelly of sensually terrifying tones surging out of a socket somewhere in the second circle of hell. Who doesn't like a good scare though, right?

While a previous pair of mini-releases -- EP1 and EP2, respectively -- hinted at the twisted though elegant whirlwind of R&B and experimental flavours the artist born Tahliah Barnett could serve up, the 10-song LP1 has her mastering the balance. "Preface" warms things up quickly with angelic choir melodies before being overturned by howls, a splash of vintage videogame sounds and a haunting, dub-style clack.

The album goes even more haywire from there with early highlight "Lights On." With the lyrics taking a warts-and-all approach to relationships ("When I trust you we can do it with the lights on"), the song has FKA twigs skipping a fragile falsetto atop carnival-style pipe organ, bobbling marimba, the open field cries of a thousand cicadas and all-too-spacious snare hits. If you ever wondered what it'd be like to play an old Portishead album at the same time as the soundtrack to The City of Lost Children, this is probably as close as it's going to get. The stunner's in-song lovemaking session is explosive enough to trigger the closing sounds of a car alarm.

Though fractured in its presentation of tracks like "Pendulum," seemingly driven by the arrhythmic knocking of a woodpecker on an otherwise barren beatscape, LP1 still thrives off of traditional R&B conventions. Self-pleasuring bedroom ballad "Kicks," for instance, has the vocalist closing out the set with soaring vocals a la Janet, Mariah, Beyonce or even Brandy. Sure, the slow-jam apparently has twigs harmonizing with helium-huffing kittens, but the kernel is still there. And judging by the trajectory of her career thus far, it's only going to get weirder from here.  [Tyee]

Read more: Music

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