Anna Meredith’s first full length album has been championed by DJ Mary-Anne Hobbs for a long time. She was playing tracks from Varmints on BBC 6 Music back when it was first released last year. I’d heard none of her previous work – if it was ever played on national radio, I never heard it. She is well known in hipper classical circles though: first and foremost she is a composer.
I’m not really sure how to categorise Varmints; I guess it’s electronica, but at the meaty end of the scale. It’s energetic and almost demented in places. She uses horns and synth drums to great affect, creating soaring atmospherics racing along at light speed. Listen to the repetitive beat of the track R-Type and imagine careering along at pace on a train. Some of the tracks on the album have vocals and provide a calm respite to the manic feel of the tracks surrounding them. I particularly like Nautilus and The Vapours* on the Varmints album, although all of it is good. (*there’s a little aside story about The Vapours – a conversation with my husband. See below, I’ve added it separately as it has nothing much to do with Anna Meredith).
The other week Shane mentioned Emily Wells in the comments of another post – she is a pretty awesome new find. They are sort of comparable and yet not similar at all – Emily sings on many of her tracks. It got me wondering about who else is out there pushing the boundaries of classical music and electronica. I know plenty already, but it would be good to hear of more.
I am also drawn to this album because “varmints” is a word my sister loves and has used it to describe all the children in the family at some point or other.
Yet again ‘Spillers I come to you to fill in the gaps in my musical knowledge. What can you tell me about all this and who else should I be tracking down?
*Just over 3 minutes into The Vapours there is a blast of horns. It’s very distinctive, you can’t miss it, so much so that it stuck with me. I always have 6 Music on at home, and I was struck by the similarity of the horns section of The Vapours to parts of a track called Jericho by Baal which I heard on the radio one day. In fact I even tweeted about it from The ‘Spill’s account.
So, a few weeks later I was looking for something in our CD pile and I came across a ripped CD. The CD itself and the insert were written on with marker pen; a personal note to my husband and a track list. The artist name on the front was Baal (can I now find said CD? no I cannot). I took the CD downstairs in a fit of excitement (“look what I found, oh my goodness we’ve got to get it on right now” – that sort of thing, probably with more swearing). I told my husband about the similarities of the 2 tracks I’ve already mentioned – played them both on the Sonos to see if he agreed. There was a small glimmer of affirmation, but the overall reaction was more “meh, not sure”. I then insisted on putting this ripped CD on – it was bound to be good, if it was anything like Jericho. The conversation went something like:
Me: “We need to get this on, it’s bound to be good. I can’t believe we even have this. How weird is that??”
Him: “You don’t want to put that on; it’s shit”
Me: “What do you mean, how can it be shit? That track I just played was alright wasn’t it?”
Him: “It wasn’t all that, nothing special, but that CD there…that is full of really crap music”
Me: “I don’t believe you. Where did it even come from”
Him: “Some people I worked with from Denmark made it for me over 10 years ago and told me Baal were the best thing Denmark had to offer but it is truly dreadful. What does that say about the Danes’ taste in music do you think?”
Me: “Really? Maybe it’s not the same group”
Him: “I’m not bothered either way, the CD is pants and that other track, Jericho is alright, but I’ve heard better”
Me (thinking): okaaaaay
I put it on anyway. It is the same group – Google tells me so. It really is truly shocking – I mean, really bad. So bad, I must have chucked it straight out, because I can’t find it now and this was only a few weeks ago. Moral of the story? – my husband knows his onions.