FKA Twigs, M3LL155X - Album review: Dancing to her own tune

Download: Figure 8; I’m Your Doll; In Time; Glass & Patron; Mothercreep

Andy Gill
Friday 21 August 2015 13:48
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FKA Twigs
FKA Twigs

With M3LL155X – pronounced “Melissa”, and apparently code for her “personal female energy” – FKA twigs confirms the evidence furnished by last year’s LP1 that she is the most dynamic and imaginative young talent working in British pop music today.

Not that one need restrict her to pop music; as her performances have shown, Twigs is an extraordinary dancer and charismatic presence, qualities to which one can now add director. Notionally a five-track EP, M3LL155X is in its fullest realisation an art film/performance (co-directed and co-choreographed by her), freely available on YouTube, dealing with… well, with the very nature of creation. Which is a pretty big subject for pop, you’ll agree.

Musically, it’s a more focused, coherent application of the same kinds of sounds and vocals used on LP1: on the objectification reflection “I’m Your Doll”, the scrabbling, scurrying noises are barely legible as beats, while the smears of sound are like audible echoes of emotions. It sounds as if the entire musical backdrop is in constant flux, shifting against the one stable element, which is Twigs’ voice.

“In Time” features another smeary, blurred soundscape oozing amorphously around her vocal, gradually assuming firmer shape, depth and texture as the song proceeds: “Your hands on my body will resonate through me like they did before, and then I will be better and we will be stronger and you will be greater.” And on “Glass & Patron”, she sounds like a more sensual, intimate Madonna, urging, “One, two, three, now hold that pose for me” over an extraordinary backing that manages to convey momentum and fracture at the same time. But it’s only when the music is heard alongside the images that the project really blossoms with meaning. It’s already apparent that in some sense, the EP is about the passage from submission to assertion, from being a vehicle for someone else’s imagination to being the creator of oneself, and the innovative, sometimes startling video images bring that out with potent clarity.

It opens with the stalking, industrial synth pulse and skittering electro-percussive splashes of “Figure 8” – a vogueing reference, here personified by septuagenarian avant-garde fashion icon Michele Lamy, whose copiously bejewelled presence slowly hoves into view. The next sequence is “I’m Your Doll”, in which a 3D CGI Twigs, a sex-doll Twigs and the real Twigs switch confusingly around while a gazing male struggles to impose his desire on her/them.

The artwork really coheres through the final three tracks, “In Time”, “Mothercreep” and “Glass & Patron”, in which a faux-pregnant twigs herself gives birth, with breaking waters represented by multi-hued paints pouring down her legs, before she appears to pull multi-coloured ribbons from her vagina. The final sequence features a phalanx of dancers, as Twigs sings, “Why wait all week to hear gods talk, when you’ve got a front row to the stars?” – an empowering attitude that confirms the primacy of personal action over the empty twitter of an infantilising celebrity culture.

It’s an uplifting message, ingeniously conveyed through one of the few successful examples of pop-video-as-art. Though it’s just as well she created it now, while she’s still relatively unaffected by celebrity herself: with talent this unique, she’s surely staring stardom in the face.

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