Back in the late ’90s, a virus called Melissa infected a host of computers, eventually leading to the breakdowns of several e-mail servers. Whenever a Word document would be saved, the file would send itself to contacts without the user’s permission. In its chaos, what it did was frightening to the technological expanse and peace of mind. At first glance, FKA twigs‘ EP M3LL155X captures the jumbled nature of a virus through its title. Melissa the virus broke down simpler computers. M3LL155X wants to break down music with its Experimental nature.
England-based FKA twigs corrupts structure with the help of producer Boots. With this release, there is no beauty in the breakdown–and that is what makes it stick out as a favourable EP. Passages are almost never predictable electronically. Listeners can sense the almost senseless repetition of chorus lines, but until a few listens they will find a hard time bearing through the rapid bombardment of white noise and industrial equipment being whirred. Abruptness is the name of the shell game that the artist presents. Maybe the comparison to Die Antwoord seems trashy, but FKA twigs really grasps the hip-hop group’s style as if it were her own, blending together Harlequin from the Batman comics with a demon from a relatively shallow part of the circles of Hell that Dante Alighieri describes. Just like how Alighieri has a man-crush on Virgil, FKA twigs certainly has feelings for her sonic demons.
The artist presents a very peculiar contrast within M3LL155X: she balances the almost angelic range that she can muster with the schizophrenic sounds of someone going through an exorcism. This is a good thing. With pop musicians singing about angels and demons as if they were shoulder canaries, it is really nice to have someone finally put themselves in the juxtaposing sides, perhaps even liking the loss or gain of innocence within the transformations. And FKA twigs does know how to input human frailty into that mix, such as on “Figure 8,” where her wavy voice competes with the ASMR-provoking page-flipping and bassy electronics, only to be swept away by a haze of noise. With a sour rhythm in the background and her yelp, something heard throughout the EP, FKA twigs comes off as a haunting ghost.
When she gets even more experimental, things hit the fan in a good way. Call some paranormal investigators because your headphones are going to get poltergeist-ed. “I’m Your Doll” has these uneven musical textures–more like eruptions–that are overbearing in a negative sense, especially when they do not try to complement the seductive sound of her voice, an aspect of the track that should not be tampered with as much as it was. The taser-like drums are a high point on this song. With “In Time,” the experimental portion is in how she crafts the emotional barrage that does not decide to hide itself in her words. “You’ve got a goddamn nerve,” she snaps, sounding a bit like Carly Rae Jepsen if she did more R&B. “Glass & Patron” explores sexual subject matter in a way that would make Madonna’s “Vogue” childish. It is glitchy, dirty, and wonderful. “Mothercreep” is a track that raises the question of a reliance on the background electronics, especially with its repeated “I’ll be there soon…” Still, the good portions best the demons of the bad.
M3LL155X is a much-needed blooming and pre-work-out for FKA twigs. She dines on our surprise and waits until the right time to unleash her virus-like payload.
Dustin Ragucos is a writer of things fictional, poetic, and musical. His main loves include Death Grips and Indie music. Dustin’s blog is host to a weekly blurb about albums old and new.