Danny Wright sits down with fellow-writers, Thomas Hannan and Stephanie Phillips to discuss one of the most highly-anticipated records of the year, FKA Twigs’ Magdalene.
So are you both big Twigs fans?
Thomas: After the first record, I was convinced she was pretty great. But after seeing her at Alexandra Palace earlier this year, I think she might be one of the most talented artists I’ve ever seen.
Stephanie: I got really into her just before LP1. After that, I listened to ‘Pendulum’ at least once a day for months. I loved that she was a black British female artist who had the freedom to be as weird as she wanted, which is, unfortunately, fairly rare in the mainstream.
I saw her at Roundhouse and she had the most powerful subwoofer I’ve ever heard. Bass was rumbling up to my middle. It was honestly one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to.
So, fair to say your expectations were high for this record?
Thomas: Actually, being honest, I hadn’t listened to her much in a while. Part of what I’ve enjoyed is how much this has taken me by surprise.
Stephanie: I expected her to pull out the stops, but after hearing her follow-up EP, I assumed she’d be going in the same direction as LP1. I was surprised by this sudden left turn sonically. On reflection, it makes sense that she’d need to explore other sounds, though.
Thomas: To me, it improves on the first record. It makes that emotional connection more directly. It’s a real kick in the guts.
How would you describe the new sound?
Stephanie: It’s far more expansive than the first record. I love how many avenues it takes you down. In some areas it feels like a trap score to a performance art film; in others, it wanders into electronic, post-industrial noise.
Thomas: It’s like she’s found a completely new way to speak about love and heartbreak, the two most clichéd topics in pop, and that’s hugely admirable in itself, never mind the fact that in some of its best moments sonically, it sounds like an IDM version of Kate Bush’s The Red Shoes, which is a GREAT THING.
Stephanie: I suppose it sits in the experimental R&B chair, but is reaching out to other genres throughout.
Thomas: It is really experimental, but then you get something like ‘Sad Day’, which is just a straight-up, gorgeous pop song… it goes everywhere this thing.
I definitely heard Kate Bush in it…
Stephanie: Especially in the second half of ‘Home With You’ and definitely in the experimental nature of the whole record.
Thomas: The intro to ‘Thousand Eyes’ as well. It’s similarly darling in spirit to Kate Bush.
Stephanie: It takes risks, and plays with the ugly and grotesque sounds in the same way the best Kate Bush records do.
She’s obviously been through a lot. Does that come through?
Thomas: It certainly doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a heartbreak record. But there’s a sense of struggle and overcoming hardship to it that goes beyond that, into something more universally relatable.
Stephanie: It comes through in interesting ways. I love the ending of ‘Home With You’, when the choir of voices and instrumentation rise to a volume that feels almost unbearable. It feels like a comment on how what may seem like a beautiful sentiment of wanting to be with someone can be unhealthy or chaotic.
Thomas: At times, it seems like she’s tearing her hair out at the futility of her situation. It sounds really exasperated in moments, in a really revealing way.
Do you think Nicolas Jaar and Noah Goldstein were good choices for producers?
Stephanie: They brought together a complex body of work and made it flow, so they clearly did a great job. Whoever she worked with, though, the essence of Twigs would still shine through.
Thomas: You certainly don’t doubt that this is her vision and it sounds this way because that’s exactly how she envisioned it sounding. Jaar and Goldstein have brought that to fruition.
I’m surprised the album didn’t have a visual element to it. Are you excited to see the album live?
Thomas: I will buy FKA Twigs tickets the minute they go on sale from this day forward. She dances with fuckin’ SWORDS for chrissakes. But I guess not having that aspect makes the live performance even more of a special event…
Stephanie: Whatever she’s doing, it’s always surprising, which is why she’s such a great pop star. Or maybe she’s no longer solely a pop star now.
Her artistic vision seems to go beyond the music…
Stephanie: Which is fascinating. It’s always inspiring to see people working light years ahead of anything you could conceive of.
Thomas: Quite fun to wonder what, like, the tenth FKA Twigs album might sound like…
Anything else to add?
Thomas: Just that this is a real album of the year contender for me.
Photo by Matthew Stone.
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