Wednesday, February 11, 2015

FKA Twigs - Sounds and the Subconscious

FKA Twigs (Tahliah Barnett), a 27 year old, genre-crossing Brit has absolutely exploded in the last year. I'd love to try to explain to you what her music is like, but it's nearly impossible for me (as well as plenty of music critics who have tried to define her sound), and that's one of the reasons I find her so interesting. In lieu of words, why don't you take a listen:

FKA Twigs - Two Weeks

Taken from her latest release, LP1 (which dropped in August), "Two Weeks" is one of her more accessible tracks. The rest of LP1 is a similar mesh of bizarre clicks, electronic squelches, and a lovely soprano voice and carefully crafted lyrics that somehow make sense of her vast sonic palette. In addition to sculpting a sound that has critics lost for words, Twigs has a visual component as well. She's been on a music-video mission, producing videos for every song on her first two releases (EP1 & EP2) and three of the ten cuts on LP1 so far. Her aesthetic is bold, and many of her videos are discomforting, but there's no getting around her attention to detail. In every aspect of her work she pushes boundaries and works to create something decidedly new for contemporary music. Her videos, while not plot-driven, still somehow manage to feel like perfect compliments to her sonic experimentation. Lots of unique and vivid imagery that feels like a natural counterpart to the music.

FKA Twigs - LP1 Album Artwork

Some additional videos if you found yourself intrigued with "Two Weeks":
FKA Twigs - Pendulum
FKA Twigs - Video Girl
FKA Twigs - Papi Pacify

Her sounds and visuals are intriguing because of the sort of "gut feeling" they give me. Twigs has indicated in interviews that she enjoys experimenting with using everyday sounds in her work. These can be heard frequently throughout her work (prime example- the knocking sound in the beginning of "Pendulum", linked above) and have an interesting effect. Often, these everyday noises, not commonly associated with music, evoke an instinctual reaction. If you listened to the beginning of "Pendulum" did it make you feel anxious? That's probably because your subconscious brain thought someone was at the door trying to get in. There are plenty of other examples throughout her work thus far where these everyday noises evoke subconscious, "gut" reactions that match the energy of the track and draw you in to really focus on the intricate patchwork of sounds she's sewn together.

Twigs' music draws on a large number of genres such as R&B, Trip-Hop, Rap/Hip-Hop, and although she incorporates many different influences, she somehow manages to synthesize it all into something that doesn't feel like a conglomeration of 10 different genres, it just feels like FKA Twigs. Since EP2, Twigs has been working with Arca, a Venezuelan producer based in London who has production credits on four of Kanye's tracks on Yeezus. Although it is apparent that Twigs is the primary creative mind behind the project, listening to the differences between her first release and her subsequent work, it's clear that Arca and the additional producers credited on LP1 have had a significant effect on shaping and perfecting her sound.

Still from "Pendulum" music video.

Referring to chapter three of Csikszentmihalyi's Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention, an interesting creative aspect of FKA Twigs is her history in the music industry, and her initial "access to a domain". Born to parents who were both dancers, FKA Twigs emerged into the music scene initially as a backup dancer in music videos. Twigs has explained in interviews that she achieved a sort of fame where people would recognize her occasionally, but only as a part of someone else's video. Eventually she grew to resent this recognition and wanted to make something all her own. Her entry into the domain as a dancer allowed her limited access to the more creative side of the music industry and gave her a taste for creating. Her jump from taking part in other's work to exploring her own creativity is the premise of her song "Video Girl", which shows how her initial limited access to the domain more or less led to her desire to break through and start creating her own, genre-defying music.



  1. I really liked that you pointed out how the combinations of visual and sounds creates a unique gut feeling. It really shows how thought out and deliberate every component of her work is. I also think it's cool that you talked about the influence of different genres on her. It's as though she heard the connections in her head and was able to create them into something creative but fluid. She's a great artist and it was cool reading about her in your post!

  2. Ah, I love FKA Twigs! It's so cool you did a post on her because she truly is an incredible creative force in the music industry right now. Her music videos are just as strange as her songs - but strange in the best way possible. I especially like the Pendulum video, and I'm glad you talked about it, but also her video for "How's That" is equally as artistic (the weird, shapeshifting body). I think the "gut feeling" you mentioned is very insightful. Her music sort of makes you feel uncomfortable in a sense, because it's so very unconventional and like nothing else out there. It plays with our subconscious with both recognizable sounds and alien ones. So you just have this very foreign feeling while listening to her stuff, but I think that's part of her genius. She is pushing the boundaries and is definitely a revolutionary. That's what makes her music so great, it's familiar and perversive in a way, yet enticing. Way cool post, Carter.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.