You’ve made it to the end of the week, so close it out with something raucous. My choice is Anna Meredith, a brilliant British composer-performer whose music is as barnstorming as she is versatile. She was classically trained, but has become totally untethered from any one particular genre or style, as Varmints – her first studio album released back in 2016 – goes to show.
“Nautilus”, the opening track, takes no prisoners. Tempering raw electronic surges with classical techniques, Meredith is the master of the build up. Using a fairly formulaic design—adding instruments and dividing notes for more densely populated phrases teeming with cross-rhythms—it regardless yields staggering climaxes every time, which then come to such an abrupt end one is left feeling quite dumbfounded.
As she says in her NPR Tiny Desk Concert performance, Meredith has “the voice of a five-year-old boy”. But it is also disarming, as in “Something Helpful”, hearing a voice so natural and unaffected in contrast to the souped-up electronic power pulsating beneath much of her music. Praise must go to drummer Sam Wilson, whose balmy tenor comes to the fore in “Dowager”, a beautiful, pared-back number.
Elsewhere there’s silky, shimmering cello in “Honeyed Words”, Steve Reichian throbbings, and Nirvana-esque headbangers.
The stylistic gambit of the album is staggering. But it’s not such a surprise when you take into account the breadth of Meredith’s other work. Big multi-media commissions for the BBC Proms, an opera, a concerto for beatboxer and orchestra, and countless smaller works for chamber musicians and electronics. She’s also since branched into writing music for film and television, including Bo Burnham’s highly acclaimed Eighth Grade.
Meredith’s is music to put a smile on your face and have you stomping around the kitchen. The way to end the week, and start the weekend. Make it an occasion!
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