One of the first exposures to Tahliah Barnett aka FKA twigs was the video for ‘Hide’ in 2012; against a background soaked in a vivid crimson shade, an undressed female figure – covered with an anthurium flower – holds her hands to her hips in a seemingly confident stance, glitching and gliding as she shifts her pose. The camera never goes beyond her shoulders, laying a body bare but an identity concealed. It is as surreal as it is sensual; you wonder how by being so stripped back and exposed someone could lack such intimacy, how by being held so close you still feel so far removed.
LP1 pulsates with the same tension and conflict: intimacy and absence, dominance and submission, shyness and confidence. In a hypnotic record that quite simply captured the year, FKA twigs teases with a multidimensional ambiguity from start to finish. In ‘Two Weeks’, she taunts with ‘I can fuck you better than her’, lapsing quickly to the almost fanatic repetition of ‘I could kiss you for hours’, and then reverting to the heartbroken lament ‘so lonely trying to be yours’ within the space of three songs. The identity with which twigs presents herself is as enigmatic as LP1 is impossible to categorise.
What makes the album even more remarkable is how it upholds its veil of mystique despite its creator’s prominence in print and online media. Barnett broke from ‘the girl in the video’ onto the covers of the likes of Fader and Crack, that glossy and bug-eyed portrait pitched at the forefront of the Mercury Prize nominations. Dazed & Confused dedicated an entire day to her, making cause for a celebration of a breakthrough artist which had people going ‘I haven’t heard anything like this before’. And even while more recent attention on her private life chips away at that veil further, her cryptic character as presented in the debut remains equally as rousing to divulge into.
LP1 lives and breathes entirely within its own space. With production from Arca, but retaining a sound that is totally her own, the rattling snares, glitchy rhythms and muted kicks craft a deeply unusual time signature that sets it apart from other records of the same critical acclaim. Her swooping, choral and ethereal vocals mirror the liquidity of every stretch of an arm, or curve of her back, of every dance move in her videos and sold out tour. Stripped, shy, sultry and sparse the sound may be, LP1 is one of the most prodigious releases of the year.
Words: Josie JR Roberts