TWIST HELIX – Frida Kahlo

Are we simply vain?

Back in 2018, Twist Helix’s Ouseburn (see TEC review previously) served up an unusual concept for a synth-pop album. Troubled by the loss of community and urban renewal that’s affected the Newcastle music scene, the 3-piece outfit poured their heart and soul into an album whose songs reflected those themes.

Tunes such as ‘Little Buildings’, ‘Newcastle’ and the title track from Ouseburn embraced a love of euphoric pop with a social conscience.

Consisting of Bea Garcia (synth, vocals), James Walker (drums) and Matthew Barron (bass), Twist Helix also knock it out of the park in a live environment with an energy that transcends traditional synth-pop live acts. Their appearances at events such as Silicon Dreams and Synthetic City showcased their talent for big pop anthems – and also swiftly won new fans along the way.

Earlier this year, Twist Helix returned with the urgent feminist anthem ‘Louder’, a tune sparked by Garcia’s frustration with the gender imbalance inherent in the music industry.

Twist Helix’s latest outing heralds the forthcoming new album Machinery, which is due for release this autumn. ‘Frida Kahlo’ takes inspiration from the iconic Mexican artist, offering commentary on vanity, art and the striving for authenticity. With big synth chords and a boisterous percussive base, it’s an energetic outing that has all the classic Twist Helix qualities.

“’Frida Kahlo’ is a song about identity” offers the band in discussing the new song, “How in an online world we self fashion an image of ourselves by referencing popular culture and art, telling people what we like, who we follow, what we wish to be, in a manner akin to the tradition of self-portraits.”

“The track is not so much about Frida herself but how the mass consumption of images deviates from a true understanding of the self in favour of the popular, current, now.”

Frida Kahlo herself was a painter who rose to prominence in the pre-war period of the 1930s and 1940s. She often employed surrealist elements in her work (which also had a strong focus on self-portraits). Her paintings explored themes of identity, mythology and gender, while also drawing on a life that was marked by crippling health issues.

Kahlo’s legacy has, in some ways, eclipsed her actual work as a painter. In the 21st Century, her image adorns everything from clothing to notebooks in a commercialisation effort that has cast a mythology of its own over Kahlo. “Are we simply vain, obsessed with the artform we create?” offers Garcia, posing her own questions about identity and self-image.

At its heart, ‘Frida Kahlo’ embraces the anthemic qualities that helped to establish Twist Helix’s reputation for energetic pop. But as with many of the trio’s tunes, there’s a deeper message to be found.

‘Frida Kahlo’ is out now on Paul Back Music.

Photo Credit: Jay Dawson (Shutter Productions).