As FKA twigs, British musician Tahliah Barnett turns R&B into a cerebral soundscape of ever-shifting rhythms and noise. Her debut LP is similar to recent albums by Björk and the Knife in that she messes around with time signatures, phrasing and sonic oddities in search of a unique song structure.
Whereas those artists' playful metaphors or political lyrics mirrored their non-traditionalism, twigs is more direct. She sings about love in the first person, often addressing an unnamed partner - on Lights On and Hours, for example - as part of an erotically charged tug-of-war between self-confidence and self-doubt.
The music follows the whims of her vocals, which are as unpredictable and impressively produced as the rest. Her soft, breathy and sometimes effected voice erupts in bursts of staccato, lapses into falsetto and dissipates into choral ecstasy. It's a rigorous production that could benefit from some humanizing imperfections. After a while, the microscopic detail underscoring each turn of phrase, delivered with such delicate poise and precise drama, is suffocating.
Top track: Pendulum
FKA twigs plays the Danforth Music Hall Friday (August 8).