The release out of nowhere, the accompanying videos for nearly all of its tracks, the recruitment of producer Boots – FKA twigs’ surprise E.P., M3LL155X, may share several things in common with Beyoncé’s self-titled opus, but its five tracks show that sonically, the two stars remain poles apart.
Named after her “personal female energy,” (pronounced Melissa), the more imaginatively-titled follow-up to 2013’s EP2 certainly won’t spawn any radio or chart hits a la “Drunk in Love” or “XO,” with each song continuing to push forward the claustrophobic alt-R&B sound that defined twigs’ acclaimed Mercury Prize-nominated debut.
Indeed, if anyone believed the media spotlight surrounding her high-profile relationship with Twilight star Robert Pattinson would inspire FKA twigs to embrace the mainstream, M3LL15XX proves once and for all that the artist formerly known as Tahliah Barnett is more than content to stay outside the fringes.
Inspired by the art of voguing, the hypnotic opener “Figure 8” sees the 27-year-old’s breathy operatic tones address the theme of femininity over a backdrop of industrial whirrs and clicks. Written in her late teens, “I’m Your Doll” is a sparse and uncharacteristically submissive affair (“dress me up/I’m your doll/love me rough”) interrupted by bursts of abrasive feedback, while unsettling kiss-off “Glass and Patron” combines twigs’ now-trademark rattling percussion with clanging chimes and grimy synths.
Even the E.P.’s most accessible track, the slinky Aaliyah-esque R&B of “In Time,” still sounds like it’s been beamed in from another planet, and closer “Mothercreep” is possibly even more eerie than its name suggests.
Throw in an awe-inspiring and highly provocative series of promos, and M3LL155X confirms that FKA twigs’ status as one of the most distinctive and forward-thinking female artists around is entirely deserved.