There’s nothing missing here—it just sounds like there is. Tahliah Barnett, the woman behind FKA Twigs, has made an album almost entirely about the absence of something. There’s an immense amount of want here, most of it sexual, but it’s an unfulfilled want. LP1 takes the humid isolation of Twigs’ EP1 and EP2 and twists it into ten tracks of relationship Hail Marys. But there’s a subdued sense of strength running under Barnett’s pleas that translates into a dark confidence, and in that tension is where LP1 finds its best moments.
It makes sense that Twigs began her career as a dancer (the recognition for which she laments in the cooing Video Girl), because every track on LP1 moves with a sense of sinewy, anatomic precision. Preface opens with a sad, slight vocal gasp that sounds like a balloon deflating and devolves into cluttered industrial skrunk. Two Weeks features percussion that sounds like an irregular heartbeat, one that Twigs glides over with obsessive purpose. Give Up twinkles with an eyelash-batting drum flutter.
LP1 is a highly minimal album, but its small jerks and stutters give it an immensely textured feel. Hours sounds like a clock slowly breaking; Kicks bubbles to the surface and bursts. Pendulum metronomes back and forth like a pinball knocking around on tin floors. Almost every sound is unusual here, but if LP1 begins to feel slightly monotonous with its flat percussion slaps and Barnett’s ever-breathy croon, that’s because sometimes romantic pain manifests itself as a dull, monotonous thing. Nearly all the sounds in LP1 become effectively tangible, and tangible things are often less exciting than fantasy.
Throughout the album, there’s a palpable desire to be needed. Take the nervous fumbling of Lights On, where a soft, xylophonic beat maps lyrics like, “When I trust you we can do it with the lights on.” Other LP1 lyrics include: “Am I suited to fit all of your needs?” (Hours), and “So lonely trying to be yours” (Pendulum), and “Was I just a number to you?” (Numbers), and “I know that sometimes you wish that I had got away” (Give Up) and the obvious, “I live my life forever loving you (Closer). The idea of love as some kind of ultimate salvation pulses over every track here—the melody of Closer even builds like an ecclesiastical symphony—but such salvation is inextricably linked to near-torturous self-denial.
As far as wretched romantic pain goes, Barnett’s is fairly flawless. Its intense internal focus ensures every element of a track is important, and not only that, necessary. LP1 might leave you with a little bit of heartburn, but it’ll also have you seeking out that kind of nicely smoldering, masochistic feel—the one you can’t stop going back to.