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by Philip Sherburne

August 14, 2014

Source Material: FKA twigs

by Philip Sherburne  |  August 14, 2014

What Rob Harvilla called Inc.'s "air of ethereal lasciviousness" could apply equally to FKA twigs -- well, except that the U.K. singer balances heady, vaporous strains of futuristic R&B with a raw carnality that's almost disconcerting; The Weeknd himself might blush at the druggy, desperately sexual abandon described in her single "Two Weeks." Unlike The Weeknd, though, the British singer and dancer -- she got her start as a bit player in music videos -- has interests that extend beyond mere depravity. Songs like "Water Me", from last year's FKA twigs EP, and ["Pendulum"], from debut album [LP1], show her to be a wounded romantic capable of writing songs as emotionally devastating as they are sonically experimental.

FKA twigs' real name is Tahliah Barnett; she got the nickname "twigs" from her habit of cracking her joints, and the "FKA" came in response to a cease-and-desist from another artist named Twigs. Her debut album, out this week, is a jaw-droppingly original take on contemporary R&B, but that's not to say it's entirely sui generis; our postmodernist goth magpie pulls from a surprising array of sources, including classic trip-hop acts like Portishead and Tricky; breathy R&B singers like Aaliyah and Cassie; and leftfield electronic producers like Evian Christ.

We begin our source material playlist with a selection of songs by FKA twigs' collaborators, including Inc., Arca, Devonté Hynes, Clams Casino and Sampha, all of whom turn up on [LP1]. Arca coproduced four tracks; Clams Casino and Devonté Hynes had a hand in ["Hours"]; and Sampha cowrote and coproduced ["Numbers"], one of the album's highlights. Nautic, meanwhile, is the London trio of singer Laura Groves, producer Nathan Jenkins (aka Bullion) and Tic Zogson, an A&R executive for XL Recordings who played on a number of [LP1's] songs. (The Grammy-winning producer Emile Haynie, of Eminem's Recovery and Kanye's "Runaway", also had a significant hand in the project; more surprisingly, Paul Epworth cowrote and coproduced ["Pendulum"]. Epworth, you might recall, is also the cowriter and/or producer of Coldplay's Ghost Stories, Bruno Mars' "Natalie", Foster the People's Supermodel and an obscure little song by Adele called "Rolling in the Deep."

The second half of the playlist focuses on songs and artists whose influence echoes throughout FKA twigs' work. And no, Air Supply's "All Out of Love" isn't a mistake. She quotes its melody, note for note, in ["Two Weeks"] -- proof that twigs may be moody, but she still has a sense of humor.

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