Indie rock, techno, and classical collide on Scottish classical composer Anna Meredith’s solo debut, Varmints | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Indie rock, techno, and classical collide on Scottish classical composer Anna Meredith’s solo debut, Varmints

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Scottish composer Anna Meredith has found a niche working with classical institutions in their efforts to engage new listeners. Her piece “Connect It,” which demonstrates a canon using body percussion and beatboxing—with rhythmic patterns passed around between performers—was part of the BBC’s Ten Pieces program, an endeavor to get kids ages seven to 14 interested in classical music. Her more serious works for the likes of the London Sinfonietta have used similar sonic and performative elements. Meredith’s interest in reaching larger audiences and generating greater immediacy has led her to create pop music too. On her 2016 debut, Varmints (Moshi Moshi), bits of indie rock, video-game sounds, and techno collide with ideas from symphonic music. The album opens with the instrumental “Nautilus,” which refracts stentorian brass a la Wagner within a sonic house of mirrors and eventually jacks it up with punishing electronic beats. A vaguely complementary swirl of rapidly churning electronic arpeggios follows on “Taken,” before Meredith and guitarist Jack Ross begin singing a straight-up indie-rock melody that sounds like a shined-up sliver of a Nirvana song. Over a straight-up four-on-the-floor techno pulse, Meredith evokes the frothy sweetness of Sarah Cracknell’s singing in St. Etienne. At moments I find the record a bit too fizzy, as if Meredith is making music for aerobics, but most of the time she strikes a fascinating balance. Her collision works because she clearly loves and understands both sides of the blend.   v

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