thu 14/11/2019

CD: fka twigs – mary magdalene | reviews, news & interviews

CD: fka twigs – mary magdalene

CD: fka twigs – mary magdalene

Intensely emotional lyrics matched by experimental production

Intense and highly visual: fka twigs

Tahliah Barnett has been having a rough old time of it. There was that doomed celebrity romance (Robert Pattinson) and some health issues (I’m not entirely sure if we need to know about her operation to have fibroids removed) but suffering, as we are all aware, is the fuel of creativity. Unclassifiable but leaning towards the classical, fka twigs’ gut-wrenching, soul-bearing second album – her first since the Mercury Prize nominated LP1 – showcases her soprano vocals against bare, eerie arrangements which will without  doubt never be played in a club. Upbeat this is not; but uncompromising it is.

Opening track "a thousand eyes" (no, I don’t like the pretension of all lower case either), co-written with producer Nicolás Jaar, sounds for all the world like it could be performed in a church. twigs (yes, she’s lower case too) studied choral music and it cannot be denied that her voice is exquisite.

As a highly visual artist (her videos are masterful and truly experimental), it’s kind of weird to just listen to her. The word hypnotic has been used time and again to describe her oeuvre and it's hard not to watch slack-jawed at the audacity of it all. Indeed, her performances are so dramatic and mesmerising – if not somewhat over the top – that it’s good to have the chance to concentrate on the voice and the ground-breaking production.

The next track, "home with you" has something of Kate Bush buried deep within it and twigs has described performing it as "like flying with your voice". Here is the first reference to Mary Magdalene. "sad day" is the most commercial song on the album, having the almost catchy refrain "would you make a wish on my love?" but it’s far from commercial. Which is brave. 

Atlanta-based rapper Future joins her on "holy terrain", with Skrillex co-producing and taking credits for drums, engineering and programming, where she plaintively calls for a lover who can handle her deep emotions (the line "do you still think I'm beautiful, when my tears fall like rain?" is particularly powerful). The title song reflects today’s understanding of the much-maligned apostle as proto feminist – fully a sensual woman and powerful with it. ‘fallen alien’ too has religious connotations and builds exponentially as twigs responds her own call and repeat lyric. This, like many others on mary magdalene has more than a hint of later Massive Attack about it.

More of the same follows and, just when it’s all verging on repetitive, along come the aching refrains "cellophane" – the first single from the album, which was accompanied by an astounding video for which twigs trained in pole dancing for over a year. If you haven’t seen it, you must. And the live performance on the Jimmy Fallon show, which must have seriously blown American minds. To choose this song as the ‘appetiser’ for the album shows more of the determination not to stray one step from her vision which is so prevalent here. At just over 37 minutes running length, mary magdalene is brief but well-judged because this is not easy listening. Like (I suspect) the lady herself – it is very, very intense.

The title song reflects today’s understanding of the much-maligned apostle as proto feminist – fully a sensual woman and powerful with it

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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