Thursday, August 20, 2015

In Revue- 'M3LL155X' (FKA twigs)

I'll admit before I actually heard FKA twigs' surprise EP release M3LL155X my initial reaction was one of concern. Not for anything happening in the UK singer's life or the scant few details I had read about the album. Nay nay.

My concern was for how it would be received. It can be especially hard for artists who come out of the gate with such an assured, specifically styled album as twigs' LP1 to ever capture that zeitgeist again. When an artist brings such force so early, the public expectation machine can go haywire and nothing they do in the wake will live up. See Interpol for some of the "best" proof of the past decade or so. Hell I know people that still insist Kanye West's initial soul-rap period was his best, which is sort of frightening. People cling to first impressions way too much.

Fortunately that's not something to worry about with twigs' M3LL155X (pronounced Melissa). Working with Beyoncé producer Boots, twigs has crafted an album that stands alongside LP1, not in its shadow. There's no feeling of unnecessary duplication. The pair, along with producers Cy An and Tic, take the decaying drum machines and cacophonous noise of LP1 and project them farther outward. "Figure 8" starts with a terrifying low-end burble that gives credence to twigs' exhaling "It's a miracle we're still alive." Hollow ringing tubes hail "Glass & Patron," before a swarm of static comes flying through. Everything is pulverized by drums, which are loud and wobbly enough to cause heart arrhythmia.

That's even true of "In Time," the closest M3LL155X comes to an outright love song. "I will be better and we will be stronger and you will be greater," twigs declares with an uncertain resolve. She chest puffs "You've got a goddamn nerve," but that missive sits atop unstable keys and shifting drums. Nothing feels certain. The Weeknd's own dark R&B has been a comparison point before, but nowhere is the truer than on "In Time." Both artists have a way of sounding resolute, even when everything around them signals chaos. Twigs promises "I'll be home soon" in "Mothercreep"'s swirling outro, though she previously confesses "In words I lose" and "I don't know who my mother is." Realistically there's no home to go home to, just the false ideals of one.

So much of M3LL155X lyrically chases that idea of figuring out who you are when there's no template to go off of. In the aforementioned "Figure 8" she longs to live through someone else's "vice," before acknowledging "you're more alive than what I'll ever be." The admission's doubly painful delivered in a warped vocal that makes you think she's so world-weary she can't even muster the strength to sing for herself. That fragility carries over to "I'm Your Doll" a fetid electro "sex jam" with stereo-panning moans and lines such as "Complete me, I'm here alone." There's a cliché about sex that "you lose yourself in another person," but the character twigs inhabits doesn't seem to have anything to lose.

All of this might sound weak, but there's a profound strength in twigs' naked confessionals. It takes a lot to feel comfortable saying you're alone, especially when you're surrounded by people. Asking your partner to be better is difficult no matter what the relationship is. Though twigs sounds uncertain, it's clear from her latest effort that she knows exactly what she wants. 

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