Review: Anna Meredith – “Genre-bending bolts from the blue”

The brilliantly unpredictable composer is back making rollercoastering solo albums full of irreverent experiments and serious innovation

Not many musicians are made an MBE before they’ve released their second album, but Anna Meredith was given the honour this summer. Yet to frame the Scottish composer’s career in terms of solo records alone is rather misleading. The 41-year-old already had a storied career as a divisively experimental classical composer when she released her 2016 debut Varmints, an album whose synth-heavy confections were so maximalist and frenetic they often felt frighteningly unpredictable.

Since then, Meredith has continued her acclaimed work in the classical arena, as well as diversifying into film scores (she recently wrote the music for Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade). She is also back making solo albums, including the “most bangery pop pop” she reckons she’s ever created.

Fibs has much in common with Varmints – the rollercoastering instrumentals that thunder and squeal their way through wordless narratives; the more conventional vocal-centric tracks that recall the cutesier end of Britpop – but it feels lighter and brighter. Opener Sawbones arrives in an amusingly bombastic flurry of hammering, high-pitched disco synths; by the end it has settled somewhere between happy hardcore, a vintage horror film score and a fast-forwarded prog epic. On Inhale Exhale, Meredith sounds like a hybrid of Claire Grogan and Harriet Wheeler as she sings wry, sage lyrics over insistently pounding rave synths, while Killjoy’s jerky sophisti-pop is a kind of Everything Everything But The Girl.

The effect of all this incongruity is like a hundred bolts from the blue: Fibs is brimming with contrary combinations, irreverent genre-bending and serious innovation.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/0MUzevVErxLNFPU9tYQtJ0

Source: Anna Meredith: Fibs review – genre-bending bolts from the blue | Music | The Guardian

Anna Meredith: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

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.

SET LIST
“Nautilus”
“Ribbons”
“The Vapours”

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.