Concert Reviews

FKA twigs Gave a Glimpse at the Future of Pop Music at Trees on Friday

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Each track tonight translates beautifully. Most songs are one-to-one renditions of material from her last two releases, EP2 and recent full-length debut LP1. At times, the songs are punctuated with additional electronic quirks, a distended synth sustain, or exaggerated smatterings of clockwork percussion. The production's minimal bent is a welcome knee jerk in the opposite direction of R&B's typically distasteful lushness.

This arty punch-and-move approach to composition (courtesy next-gen producers Arca and Clams Casino) is contrasted with a lyricism that's anything but unusual. Typical pop tropes -- unfulfilled desire, sexual prowess, romantic insecurity -- stand in stark relief to the music's comparatively abstract instrumentals. The success of Twigs' art comes down to how she balances these two elements: uninhibited melodrama and forward-thinking musicality. The resulting dynamic is less a justification for the necessity of drastic change in modern pop and R&B than a validation of the enduring power of traditional song form.

Twigs briefly breaks character at the end of her set to speak candidly with the crowd. She thanks us for the enthusiasm and for our warm embrace. It's a bit jarring, actually. Just moments before she was this eerie figure, oozing sexual imagery and bold vulnerability, blinders on to everything but the present moment of her performance. Now she comes off mousey, soft-spoken, even brittle. There's an unmistakable disconnect exhibited by this interlude -- between Twigs the person and Twigs the artist -- which serves to explain the dissociation felt in much of her music.

Isn't all great art an attempt to communicate? The greatest being that which succeeds in so doing. In modern experimental music, the message is often one of chaos, writ in cacophony or roughened maximalism; in contemporary pop, it's usually euphoria, expressed with hooks or glowing melodies. Twigs falls somewhere in between: Not novel, not quiet radical, neither mostly visceral nor conceptual. But she's a master at communication.

The dialogue she imparts concerns the age old hardship of being human in the face of emotional detachment. We all need affection, we all want more of it. In one way or another we've all been victimized by an exodus and are now looking for comfort: A new home, whether that be found in a partner, or simply social or cultural acceptance.

With each song, each inflection, each liquid maneuver she displays tonight, Twigs expresses her desires for human connection and the dissatisfaction she experiences in attempting to actualize them. There's a universal, if myopic, purity in that sympathy. What's more relatable than that?


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Jonathan Patrick

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