A porcelain vase looks over a shelf’s beveled edge; its base caresses the edge, perched to fall at a moment’s notice. When it tumbles, shards and splinters will shower the floor, blasting the surface with their ceramic echoes of the full. As it sits on its shelf, it lies as a showpiece; one to glance at from time to time in admiration and then forget. The shelf is nudged by its less-than-perceptive owner. The vase falls and breaks into several decumbent shards.
Kintsukuroi is a Japanese art of repairing ceramics with gold, creating a piece that’s more valuable in its reconstructed state than as a flawless work, highlighting its faults with precious metal. In a way, FKA twigs’ LP1 is studious to this; she breaks apart R&B like a worn vase and repairs it, her golden voice weaving in and out of the shards to rebuilding that shattered whole as something entirely unique.
FKA twigs’ voice is only part of the gold holding together; a lacquer resin must be mixed in. This resin comes in the form of LP1‘s striking production job, one that brings in industry veterans like Yeezus collaborator Arca and Adele’s producer Paul Epworth to join FKA twigs behind a soundboard. Whether its the cathedral sputters in the hymn-worthy “Closer” or the groaning bass of “Hours,” the production on LP1 would be the lacquer to hold the album together.
Yet, LP1‘s reconstruction seems incomplete; or at least it feels shy of the charactered beauty within Kintsukuroi. While cohesive, LP1 is plagued by how drawn out its construction is. FKA twigs never leaves behind her swoon, drawing out her highs and lows over R&B minimalism throughout the album. Songs can tend to blend together or fade from attention altogether as they drag on in their drama. Emotional highpoints like “Pendulum” standout for their dynamics, but most fail to escape their monotonous backdrop as LP1 revels in continuous post-modern R&B.
That isn’t to say that the golden highlights in this reconstructed piece of R&B don’t add unique beauty to such a well-exercised/possibly exhausted genre. But, when those pieces of that shattered vase were gathered, something was left behind to be swept away. Whether it was the content (FKA twigs doesn’t really venture beyond impassioned sex save for a few shining moments – see “Video Girl’s” autobiographical confessions) or the spark meant to ignite the emotional fire beneath FKA twigs’ croons, it’s hard to say. Yet, as that vase returns to the shelf in its bolder state, it once again returns joins the other shelf-top ceramics as an object to admire and forget.
There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion
–Sir Francis Bacon.
The reason why I chose that quote to kick off my review for FKA Twigs’ new album, LP1, is because it describes the relationship I have with LP1. It is very strange, and very beautiful. FKA Twigs is a (PB)R&B singer from England. Out is her new album, LP1, which combines the mysterious nature of experimental and the soulfulness of R&B into one fantastic album.
LP1 begins with “Preface”, which features a hauntingly beautiful melody of “ahs” sung by twigs, leading into a smooth jam that accentuates her voice to the highest degree of magnificence. This is arguably the most experimental of all the tracks on this album. Yet, the brilliance and majesty carries through the whole album, and never lets up.
The next track hits you in the chest with a hammer made of solid bass. You can feel your ears pulsating to the beat of the song. I should make it clear however, twigs’ voice completely nullifies any chance of this being too annoying. I get a baroque sort of pop feel from the instrumentation, as if it was produced by George Martin (of The Beatles fame). Next is “Two Weeks” a song so beautiful it feels as if it were a revelation on all of R&B. I’ll take this time now to say that the production on this album is the best of all recent R&B. Everyone involved in the production did a fantastic job blending solid and smooth instrumentation with twigs’ soul-meltingly gorgeous voice. Anyways, “Two Weeks” feels like twigs has an ambiguous anger, like a situation came about which devastated her in every way, and she doesn’t know who to blame. That’s only what I get out of it, however. The great thing about LP1 is that multiple experiences can be had. You can either feel like you’re floating on a cloud or 300ft below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, drowning. It’s mesmerizing.
“Hours” gives the impression of mystery, almost as if twigs is hiding a secret from you. Tracks “Pendulum”, “Video Girl”, “Numbers”, “Closer”, “Give Up”, “Kicks”, and “Weak Spot” are relaying a saga of pain to me. These tracks make me feel like I’m being brutally abused, mentally. Like I’m being held by the ankles and having my head smashed against the floor, covered in tears. This really sums up why I love this album so much: twigs can relay her feelings through her vocals better than any singer in recent history. I felt like through everything she’s been through, I was right there with her. It was transcendental. It was magnificent. But most of all, it hurt. I felt emotional pain, I felt suffocated. I felt what she felt.
“Ache”, “Breathe”, and “Hide” tell a tale of rehabilitation and redemption. Almost as if we’re getting better, collectively. And, in the end, it was worth it. Worth getting tortured, worth knowing what it’s like to be truly sad, before you can be truly happy. These albums are why I love music. They don’t tell a tale, they make you live it. It’s an experience. It’s beautiful, and it’s something you won’t ever forget. It’s something I’m never going to forget. LP1 is truly an album that will always stay with me.
LP1 is out now on Yung Turks.