No Sound Without Silence
Were a satirist taxed to come up with a spoof of a painfully hipster-friendly 2014 musician, the result would be FKA Twigs.
The Twigs in question is one Tahliah Barnett, a 26-year-old half-Jamaican, half-Spanish multi-instrumentalist and vocalist from Gloucestershire who, unlikely as it sounds, used to be a backing dancer for Jessie J. Her debut album, however, is a long way from hoofing around the stage to Price Tag.
Barnett specialises in an abstruse, rarefied, processed and treated strain of digital soul that suggests Aaliyah or even Janet Jackson put through a glitch-pop wringer by (her labelmates) the xx. It is jagged, twitchy, thin-skinned music that unfolds at some point near to the end of its tether.
Twigs is a nervy, spectral, hiccupping singer whose arch vocal gymnastics recall artists as various as Kate Bush and Cocteau Twins (although she is no Liz Fraser). Her taut, intense songs seek to delineate relationships that are embryonic, clouded, in quest of validation: ‘When I trust you, we can do it with the lights on,’ she husks on Lights On.
The beats and programming are multi-layered and inventive but can’t always cover up the fact that the songs are disappointingly slight. Hours is a murmur of a track so negligible that it vanishes in a wisp of vapour; Give Up is one of the few offerings here to possess what might generously be termed a tune.
FKA Twigs is a precious talent in both senses of the word, and LP1 is exceedingly clever and frequently pretty. Whether it has any heart or soul, however, is another matter entirely.