March 2, 2018 | Bob Boilen
Out of nearly 700 performances at the Tiny Desk, this is simply the most exhilarating one I’ve experienced. The instrumentation is unusual, with pulsing bass sounds produced by a wonderful combination of cello, tuba and electronics. It’s all rhythmically propelled by an astonishing drummer and Meredith pounding a pair of floor toms. And much of the repetitive melody is keyboard-and-guitar-driven that morphs and erupt with earth-shaking fervor.
I first saw this British composer a year ago, in a stunning performance at the SXSW musical festival. It was one of the best concerts of my life. The music I heard sent me into a state of reverie. If music could levitate my body, this is how it would sound. It carried me away and thrilled my soul. I was giddy for days.
Now, I know this isn’t music for everyone. Lovers of classical music might shun it for its use of sequencers and electronics. The electronic world may wonder how the hell you could ever dance to this. Or for lovers of rock and hip-hop, its repetition and throbbing beats and bass might send you running and screaming into the distance. But if you know and love the music of Philip Glass, King Crimson or Steve Reich — music that’s electrifying, challenging and sonically soars and ripples through your body — then crank this up.
Anna Meredith was a former BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Composer in Residence. The songs performed here come from her 2016 release called Varmints, which is where two of the three songs performed here can be found. It’s been a long while since a contemporary composer has captured my musical imagination. I hope and trust this will open many to a new way of thinking about what music is and what it can do.
MUSICIANS Anna Meredith, Jack Ross, Tom Kelly, Sam Wilson, Maddie Cutter
CREDITS Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Maia Stern, Beck Harlan, Dani Lyman; Production Assistant: Joshua Bote; Photo: Eslah Attar/NPR.