New FKA Twigs Embraces '90s When-She-Was-Good Madonna

25 February 2016 | 1:32 pm | Ross Clelland

"So, what is it in a great pop song that provokes an emotional reaction in you?"

So, what is it in a great pop song that provokes an emotional reaction in you? The voice? The words? The instruments? Any or all above the above? Or maybe just if ‘It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it’. Incidentally, that line first appeared on the American Bandstand telly show in around 1955 – and probably still holds good.

There’s a bit of many of those options in FKA Twig’s next thing, Good To Love (Young Turks). It’s pop music with some edge and questions to it, as herself has often provided. But this is a little different again. Less twitchy than some of what has gone before. It’s a soft desperation, a little bit of old and new soul to it, and maybe a nod ‘90s Madonna  - you know, when she was good. Of course, there’s another important element of 21st century pop here as well – the compelling visuals of a cleverly-thought video that doesn’t rely on a cast of thousands, whether real or CGI-created.

Taking that balance a slightly different way, Massive Attack’s music has always been strangely and brilliantly unsettling in its way. Their somewhat surprising return comes with a new generation of collaborators and voices to underscore the moods of their music has Young Fathers add the threat to Voodoo In My Blood (Virgin), but adding the celebrity and big budget element to the clip, as audiences apparently need thing more spelled out to them these days. Thus, yes that’s Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Doom, Johnny English Reborn – although maybe she’d like that last one removed from the filmography…) who gets to practice her mime skills on a technological enemy from somewhere in the Dr Who props department. Song retains their familiar oppressiveness, but perhaps with a little more energy making the song much suited to soundtracking the searchlights arcing over a festival audience. 

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Sometimes words and voices aren’t necessary at all. Perth’s Fait makes atmospheric instrumental music. Chasing Youth (Inertia) is glimpses through a gauzed curtain, which actually does somehow give you the feeling the title, even without the soft-focus flashes of memory below. The danger with a lot of synth-based music without the leavening humanity of vocals is that it can end up sounding a bit like the elevator music of a boutique hotel in a fashionable suburb. This absolutely doesn’t, and suggests Elise is going to make more music engaged in the currency of all the feels.

There’s always been something just so breezily likeable in Josh Pyke’s voice. It’s almost seemed at times he’s tried to sound if there’s a bit more weight of responsibility on his shoulders, but damnit he still sounded like he was just enjoying the making of the music. Be Your Boy (Wonderlick/Sony) is maybe that bit happier and looser as he tries to stay up just that bit longer to spend more time with that new object of affection. He’s still wandering those inner-suburban streets that seem his natural environment, even as he become disembodied from them as that somebody else holds his attention. Do we almost take him too much for granted as he spools out another bit of the neatly constructed chatty and friendly conversation which he seems to do so effortlessly?

One surprise of Lush’s return after 20 years is just how, er, lush things have remained. The guitars are still gazing off into the middle distance and twining in and around one another. Through Out Of Control (Edaname) Miki Berenyi’s voice remains the pure aloof-but-somehow-approachable thing that put posters of her on the bedroom walls of many an early-90s adolescent who thought themselves just a bit more cerebral than the other kids. If the quality of this is anything to go by, they mightn’t spoil their legacy, unlike many of their contemporaries who try to make new music rather than pandering to the ‘We like your old stuff better than your new stuff’ audience. 

Remember back around then when Moby used to take those loops of old blues tunes and make dance records out of them? Masquerade (Pilerats) has Lower Spectrum taking some of that approach, before the music wanders off to stare at clouds as the artist sometimes known as Ned Beckley goes looking for that hill where you get the good view of Perth. The weakness of this approach is you tend to end up only as good as the samples you discover. But right now, he’s made something that stands pretty well on its own merits. 

It’s again one of those periods where there’s a bunch of music of various ilks coming from the western coast of this wide brown. Also from over there, Mt. Mountain are of the big, slightly sludgy, psychedelica school. Freida (Independent) fits the template as it clocks in at six-and-a-half minutes, and comes on like a band who’ve been jamming for several hours in a garage as the smell of weed and lawnmower fuel mixes in an enclosed space. It’s old school, perhaps not quite as loose as something like King Gizzard, but is like staring into amber where a butterfly and a couple of early Deep Purple records are trapped.

Meanwhile in Brisbane, The Jensens are playing dress-ups. As you may gather from the title Elvis Is Dead (Habit) there’s a bit of a ‘50s twang to it, although their feelings on the King’s demise would appear somewhat mixed. They’ve got a kind of clenched energy to them, ending up with a sound somewhere on a line between skiffle and Chris Isaak after a couple of Red Bullsand played at 45 rather than 33rpm. It has an immediacy that quite appealing, but perhaps ask me again in a fortnight.