EP Review: FKA twigs – M3LL155X

When FKA Twigs drops a new project the music world stands to attention – and she forces us to our feet. With a bold album cover, 16 minute music video, five standout new tracks, and an unpronounceable name; M3LL155X is only an EP, but it’s one of 2015’s best projects yet.

Back when FKA Twigs was considerably more low-key, fine detail was still shown in every aspect of her artistic persona – every song from her first EP came with an interconnected music video. EP2 cultivated a quirky oriental-style for the dancer-turned-songwriter and, in ‘Papi Pacify’ and ‘Water Me’, strong songs and striking visuals to match. By LP1 the airiness of her music had been tightened just enough to craft some of the finest R&B tracks of the year, quite a feat considering her music sounds like nothing else out there. Under the wings of Arca, Paul Epworth, and Devonte Hynes, and with the EP American producer BOOTs, FKA Twigs has crafted a sound that seamlessly blends R&B, Trip-Hop, and Pop, with a decidedly erratic edge but just the right level of accessibility. Like Bowie or Bjork before her, very little is known of the artist, but her strong artistic persona of sensual vocals, erotic lyrics, and cutting-edge choreography make her one of the most engaging artists in the music world right now.

FKA Twigs has proved herself strange, versatile, and committed to every aspect of her output absolutely.

This new EP allows her to indulge some of her weirder tendencies, but unusually for Twigs that comes through in M3LL155X in the form of brashness rather than airy dissolution. On ‘Figure 8’ any perception that the days of ‘Water Me’ were back are instantly quashed with the harshest sound to come from a song of hers to date – an industrial break beat that firmly sets the tone for this confident new collection. ‘I’m Your Doll’ is the weakest of the five tracks but remains sharply arresting – building in insanity and with undeniably ear-grabbing lyrics, talking of being your doll, to use “like a loaded gun.” It’s like the flip side to the phenomenal ‘Two Weeks’, there her sexuality was a weapon, here it is turned back on her. In the final song ‘Mothercreep’ her more subtle side sees a return, but over one of the stranger beats on the EP, to the point where she sounds less seductive than scared.

It’s in previously teased ‘In Time’ and ‘Glass and Patron’ that FKA Twigs for the first time ever sounds like she’s taking the pop-banger formula and working backwards, rather than building from her vulnerable textures up. ‘In Time’ could even work in a club setting, with ratting high-hats and male auto-tune that is even reminiscent of Travis Scott’s more experimental moments. Furthermore, Twigs even displays her natural voice here, almost entirely unprocessed, and her Gloucestershire accent comes through. It’s a danceable track, but with its airy breakdown and some very aggressive vocals, you’d groove to it pensive for the next twisted turn. On the EP what comes next is ‘Glass and Patron’, the most erratic of all the tracks here jumping between more industrial break beats, and an off-kilter indietronica groove that builds to her repeating “hold that pose for me!” – it’s like a 21st century take on David Bowie’s ‘Fame’, and its similarly unnerving.

A short word on the mammoth 16 minute accompanying video for this; FKA Twigs has established herself as one of the best visual artists in the medium too, and this epic is her magnum opus. As always her work sees people of every race, gender, and age on a level playing field. Starting with older artist Michele Lamy pimped out in jewels and floating like an anglerfish before swallowing the glowing orb and giving birth to a strangely rendered, childlike manifestation Twigs. The visual for ‘I’m Your Doll’ sees her head attached to a sex doll, upon which a greasy man plants himself – quite the manner of the violation it represents is unclear. However, lyrics like “am I dancing sexy yet?” and “I wait all week for a moment’s break away from being told who I am” elsewhere on the EP suggests a theme of artistic entrapment, and being corralled into the atypical tedium most female artists have to go through – like every interviewer interrogating her on her engagement to Robert Patterson. ‘In Time’ sees a most surreal take on trashy 90’s MTV dance videos turn into her pregnant belly oozing with neon paint, and later swathes of fluid silk amongst which replications of herself dance. FKA Twigs is not afraid to follow through on an artistic vision, or of what’s between her legs, and the results are both endearing and fantastic.

It would be hard to say FKA Twigs cemented herself as one of our generations most original artistic voices on M3LL155X  because that already happened, but she’s proved herself versatile, and committed to every aspect of her output absolutely. If this is what she’s producing whilst still fighting to put out all she conceives, I can’t wait to see what happens now people are finally listening.

Liam Inscoe – Jones

Liam is currently listening to ‘Levitation’ by Beach House

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Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham's IMPACT Magazine.