FKA Twigs‘ rise and subsequent release of 2014’s LP1 was easily one of the best in recent memory from the UK. With each project the singer/songwriter/dancer/video director became more ferocious with her artistic vision slowly gravitating towards a style that would become so singular to her. Tahliah Barnett is one of the most creative young forces in music right now pushing forward a blend of Electronic, Trip-Hop, RnB and Pop to create music that’s both deeply unsettling, yet highly intimate and sensual. On her last album she explored feelings of sexual frustration, how one can be broken from those frustrations (Two Weeks), the feelings of selling oneself in order to achieve fame (Video Girl) to trying to give in to the demands of someone else, whether it be in a relationship or elsewhere (Pendulum). It was an album filled with vulnerability and the strength to try to push out of that.
Twigs pairs her songs with visual art, normally directed by herself, that does everything to enhance the theme of the song, often in the strangest way possible complementing the sonic qualities of her frantic electronic production. Her new EP, M3LL155x carries on this artistic trajectory. Being a surprise release, the five track EP came in the form of a 16 minute video that Twigs posted that again features strange imagery – perhaps some of the strangest she’s released yet. In many ways that complements how the actual music itself sounds as it sees Twigs diving deeper into her dark side than ever before. One of the songs that was released prior to the EP, Glass and Patron, has some of her darkest and most brutal production yet that’s paired with one of her most genuinely catchy songs to date and is a fantastic pre-curser to the rest of the EP sonically.
One thing that FKA Twigs has always paired together fantastically is her fantastic knack for melody with her dark brooding lyrics and production. Fans of the tracks that leaned more on the pop side of her music may be disappointed with this EP as it makes an effort to highlight the darkness and the glitchiness over her pop-appeal consistently. On the track ‘In Time’, the chorus almost sounds trap-rap inspired with her reeling off a barrage of words that are drenched in effects before switching back to her beautiful singing voice. But, even this is paired with some slightly de-tuned synths that flutter around along with sporadic drum machines. The track ‘I’m Your Doll‘ goes swiftly from minimalism with subtle vocal effects occasionally creeping in, to full-blown distorted instrumentation by the end of the track lifting her vocals fantastically.
What’s interesting about this EP is that is that, at times, it’s the most frustrated and powerful that FKA Twigs has ever sounded. She uses her vulnerability as a strength, shown prominently in the first track of the EP, ‘Figure 8‘. The phrase ‘figure 8‘ alludes to the movement that people who vogue make with their hands. In an interview with Complex, FKA Twigs said “If you’re drawing figures of 8 around your face in voguing, you’re saying, ‘LOOK at my face, LOOK at my face, LOOK at my face. Look at how powerful I am, look at how beautiful I am, look at how confident I am”. She uses the voguing technique to give herself confidence. On the aforementioned ‘Glass & Patron‘ Twigs talks of dancing for someone using the expression that crops up a few times on the album ‘hold that pose for me‘. But, instead of voguing, she’s using how powerful she knows she is as a weapon to try and attract a lover.
Twigs is consistently showing her confidence and owning her femininity and is the theme for both this EP and the entirety of Twigs catalogue to date. She capitalizes on this and embraces it on this EP more than on any of her other projects. The title for this EP itself M3LL155X is a reference to the name that Twigs has actually given her femininity, Mellissa – a force that powers her in her art. The power Twigs has found in Mellissa has powered her to make possibly her best work to date, an EP that takes everything that was already great about her, strengthens it, and multiplies it.