You know the review. It was published in ’79 and dubbed one of Lester Bangs’ best: ardent, unfeigned, and self-confessional, a messy, lyrical, truly revelational review of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. Bangs, sweaty and substance-addicted (and in spite of it, completely brilliant) walked his readers through an extended period of loneliness and despair. He then introduced them to Astral Weeks, as though it were some sort of holy statue, an auditory altarpiece through which secrets of hurt and longing and the disintegration of relationships could be illuminated.
“Van Morrison is interested, obsessed with how much musical or verbal information he can compress into a small space, and, almost, conversely, how far he can spread one note, word, sound, or picture. To capture one moment, be it a caress or a twitch. He repeats certain phrases to extremes that from anybody else would seem ridiculous, because he’s waiting for a vision to unfold, trying as unobtrusively as possible to nudge it along.”
Cut to LP1, the much-hyped, virgin album from Tahliah Barnett (alias FKA Twigs) and you’ll glimpse something of the nascent intensity, the eternal, broken truths, that Bangs once found in Morrison’s record. Signed to UK label Young Turks—home to Jamie xx, Sampha, and SBTRKT—FKA Twigs makes music that’s called a lot of things, mainly trip hop and PBR&B. It’s unsurprising to read the musician referring to herself as a loner in interviews. From the outset, LP1 is toxic, guarded, paranoid. At times it feels like treading water, and at other points as though someone has pushed you under, forcing you to swallow salt, cutting off all air.