The Aussie producer and sometime vocalist truly commits to this gloomy title, sometimes to her detriment.
When making art, it’s best to “go big or go home.” To push the process to its limits, not just committing to but immersing yourself into your final product, means taking every detail into consideration. See for example, Grimes’s three-week hermitage that led to the career-making Visions or Drag Race winner Sasha Velour snatching her own wig. Both artists emphasized what set them apart; respectively, Grimes’ nymph whimpers and Velour’s bald head. Australian musician Phoebe Twiggs, known as Ptwiggs, takes on a similarly big approach. Titles like “Never Meant to Exist,” “Psychosis” and “Eternal Chains” don’t hint at a tortured voice, they expose it. The menace and hulking gait of her music gives that dark side a canvas upon which it can spread its shadow. On her latest EP, Darkening of Light, Ptwiggs finds a sweet spot in the gloom and rarely deviates from it.
The title Darkening of Light applies to what Ptwiggs does to her beloved trance music, stripping it of percussive elements and filling the void with noise. In a sense, they dim the often euphoric feel of the genre. It’s not that she takes the entirety of the beat out from under every song, more so that the ones she provides lumber along rather than a standard dancefloor glide. “Trust” begins sparsely, and then is cut by a scream which sets off a Rube Goldberg chain of noise that ends in a conflagration. When the noise clears out, can you trust her to stay mellow this time around?
This dichotomy between lofty, elongated melodies and jagged interruptions informs the flow of the EP. What sounds like Christmas caroling eventually finds itself atop militant drums on “When Shaken by a Strong Wind.” Here and on “Worth It” the opposing forces can find themselves at (sonically pleasing) odds, as if the lyrics’ messenger transmits their words through a maelstrom.
Still, Darkening of Light seeks and discovers the brighter side of the somber. Similar to the autotuned warnings of later-stage Purity Ring, “Ebb and Flow” finds Ptwiggs crooning in a much tamer atmosphere, though the sentiments are no less dismal: “To share one soul/ To let go.”
Sadly, you hear little more of her voice or anything so distinct from the following two numbers. On Darkening of Light, Ptwiggs fully leans into her macabre and abrasive nature, but the downside is that it keeps her firmly rooted in a similar structure for each song. By the time “Never Enough” rolls around, the EP’s tricks become familiar: the smooth, drawn out notes interrupted by sharper, intermittent clatter midway through the track. It certainly lends coherence yet comes short of boosting it to any new levels.
Even still, the shrillness of the synths on closer “The Town of Death” gives the album a grim sense of finality. At this moment, the beat all but drops out, allowing Ptwiggs to enter on a lovely wail at 2:40. Shortly thereafter, a smattering of sounds rip the peace apart, once again following Darkening of Light’s promise to strip the comfort from the comfortable. See, if you go big to the very end, the audience will know you gave it your all.