Defying Gravity: FKA twigs ascends to the top with “M3LL155X”

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Patience is paramount when listening to FKA twigs. Part of the reason her first LP, last year’s phenomenal LP1, didn’t immediately resonate with me is that I wasn’t patient enough with the record. I found myself skipping ahead, almost always jumping forward to “Two Weeks” before switching it off. Eventually I stopped skipping tracks, discovered LP1 was a truly remarkable record, and wondered how I’d managed to miss something so good, so honest, in those initial first listens.

My lack of patience partially stems from living in a world where 90% of the music being released falls under the category of ‘banger’. It’s hard to distance yourself from the immediate gratification of ‘traditional’ Pop, especially when it makes up a good 70% of your daily listening habits. But twigs’ draw-card is as simple as this: if you’ve got the patience for her, she’ll delightfully make it worth your while. The gratification may not be instant, but by the end of each song, particularly on this latest EP M3LL155X (pronounced ‘Melissa’, and named as such after twigs’ own “personal female energy”), you’ll find yourself beyond satisfied and eagerly awaiting whatever bizarre-but-beautiful treasures twigs’ll throw at the listener next.

FKA twigs plays the role of the RnB pop star in 2015 better than everybody else due to not only how unconventional her sound is, but also her reverence for the truth, both lyrically and with her aesthetic. The main focus of many pop stars in the market today is to take the listener far away from reality, something that is not only enjoyed but generally appreciated by most of us. But twigs packs her art full of the truth, pushing her listener’s face up against the proverbial glass window of it all which, in turn, means that she gets to say a lot more with her work than most of those around her. It’s also a bloody welcomed change, a shift that, in 2015 and moreso than ever before, needed to happen.

M3LL155X follows similar themes of interest explored on LP1, but the marriage of industrial and mechanical elements into songs that, at the very core, are urban pop masterpieces, is stronger, thicker, more disjointed than ever before. Blips and blops that hit you over the head at the most unexpected but deafeningly poignant moments, with EP opener “Figure 8” delivering a breathtaking introduction into one of the most forward-thinking EPs of recent times, and simultaneously smashing out one of the strangest, most oddly placed but equally-as-beautiful middle-8s you’ll ever hear. The song itself pays homage to the world of voguing, and the ‘Vogue ball battle scene’, highlighting one of the many central motifs for the EP and its subsequent video release; reclaiming your identity, rebirthing yourself, ownership and, perhaps most importantly, Power and Dominance, which in many ways, the Voguers within both story and video for the track demonstrate with the proud restoration and recovery of their identity.

Power and dominance, and who the beholder of that power really is. These are themes twigs explores throughout the video-release for the M3LL155X EP as well as on her EP. The most bold and adventurous MV of the year, M3LL155A takes our urban heroine from being heavily pregnant and dancing for a man, to breaking her water only to reveal streams of pastel and fluorescent paints, birthing a bloke that basically has the exact same hair as twigs via a cloud of sheets as she quietly (brilliantly) announces “look a little harder,” positioned on a bed as a blow up doll whilst being ravaged by a slobbery, discomforting man who literally eats her, and playing the judgmental headmistress of a super-stylised Vogue Battle (in which twigs technically also gives birth to her dancers and the Vogue battle itself, making for one of the most graphically eye-opening videos of the year); all packed into an impressive, heart-stopping 16 minute film that is as beautifully complex as the world of David Lynch.

I’m Your Doll”, a song twigs originally penned when she was 18, clamours in layers of musical dramatic rips and tears, reaching a disruptive, aggressive fever pitch with its final chorus that leaves you jarringly satisfied. “In Time” – the really big moment on M3LL155X – takes twigs’ blend of RnB and industrial mechanics to heavenly proportions. A truly infectious, vocodered chorus that, in true twigs style, minimises the computerized vocals in the chorus’ final showdown to remind you just how fucking brilliant that silky-smooth voice actually is, twigs echoing “You’ve got a god-damn nerve!” at the lover who’s scorned her. But the repeated chants of twigs screeching “I be feeling the same, in the club in the rave” over the top of an other-worldly soundscape make this is a real highlight. “In Time” also boasts a raspingly beautiful middle-8 that throws in ultimate euphoria when you least expect it. That’s quite possibly the best thing about FKA twigs; she’s consistently surprising the listener with twists and turns that nobody can hear coming.

In Time” might be the most commercially viable moment on M3LL155X, but the EP’s final two tracks, “Glass & Patron” and “Mothercreep”, are the best cuts here. Taking twigs to ‘next level’ territory, both “Glass & Patron” and “Mothercreep” are the most meticulously produced tracks on here, thumping with classic hooks and melodies, but once again, the classic hooks and melodies appear when and where you’d least expect them. “Do you have a lighter?” twigs sings in the chorus for “Glass & Patron”. “Am I dancing sexy yet? Are you watching coz I move alone?” As the track builds its layers, slowly one by one on top of each other, twigs’ vocal rises in both pitch and speed, ensuring the chorus eventually keeps up with the frantic wonderland of sounds going on around her. The end result is a rapid venture into one of the coolest, most effortlessly perfect moments in pop for the year. “Mothercreep” plays as big and wonderful as “Glass & Patron” does, crashing the demented world of twigs’ sound once again with a chorus that breeds a total and hysterical feeling of RnB euphoria.

My favourite thing about FKA twigs, particularly on M3LL155X, is the way she can make it sound like the environment around you is falling apart, at least the first few times you listen to M3LL155X anyway. Whenever I play this EP in the car it consistently sounds like the thing is about to fall apart, right there on the highway with me in it, and when I listen to it at home, it’s like the house is being violently shaken at its foundations. It usually takes less than a millisecond to acknowledge the fact that everything around me is actually okay, but it’s those little, intricate details and audio surprises that make FKA twigs and M3LL155X such a pure, unadulterated and refreshing joy to both listen to and watch.

If you have anything by Aphex Twin and Aaliyah on your iPod, M3LL155X is definitely worth adding to your music library.

Buy M3LL155X on iTunes now.

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