Anna Meredith's 'FIBS' Is an Audacious Blast
Scottish composer Anna Meredith makes a busy, joyful noise on her long-awaited second studio album, FIBS.
Black Prince Fury
25 October 2019
Fibs, according to accomplished composer Anna Meredith, are "lies – but nice, friendly lies, little stories and constructions and daydreams and narratives that you make for yourself or you tell yourself". So says the press release for her new album, which is called FIBS. It's an oddly fitting title for an album that contains playful yet meticulously constructed songs. The composer and musician has a musical mind that seems to overflow with great ideas, intensely and earnestly executed. Meredith has written electronic music, orchestral pieces, film scores (for the acclaimed 2018 coming-of-age comedy/drama Eighth Grade), and even a Concerto for Beatboxer and Orchestra.
Her first studio album, Varmints, released in 2016, was a mostly electronic-leaning affair, with orchestral overtones and a penchant for smart pop hooks. Fans of that album will probably eat up FIBS, as it takes on many of the same qualities of its predecessor and even builds on it. Storming out of the gate with the opening track "Sawbones", Meredith frontloads FIBS with a bold, puzzle-like overture, all brash arpeggios and bursts of contemporary synthesized sweetness.
"Inhale Exhale" seems to transition confidently into another genre entirely – or maybe only partially. The gleaming synthesizers are front and center, but the gorgeous vocals seem to hint at a long-lost 1980s alternative dance track, perhaps an Alison Moyet single that time forgot. But Meredith can't seem to sit still with a particular mood for very long, and that's to the listener's advantage. "Calion" is a mysterious, sophisticated monument to dense, pulsating electronic instrumentals and takes on a darker tone as the song progresses.
Then there's "Killjoy", another slice of upbeat dancefloor mania. The occasional severity of the arrangements – not to mention the disarming euphoria the song brings – are exactly what you'd expect from a Royal College of Music graduate assaying the electronic dance genre. Almost as a palette cleanser, "Bump" arrives as a twisted hybrid of orchestral stabs and gaudy synth-rock gestures. "Moonsmoons", one of the album highlights, is something of a companion piece to "Bump" – the alien-like combination of playful synthesizers and pleading strings add to the difficult-to-classify nature of the album, sounding like Description Björk workshopping a thumping trance workout.
The eclectic nature of FIBS only really falls flat once – on "Limpet", a forced, guitar-driven instrumental that sounds unfocused and generic alongside the album's ten other songs. But that's not a bad ratio at all. In the music video for the busy, kinetic "Paramour", a camera is mounted on a Lego train track that speeds around the room, passing by Meredith and her fellow musicians over and over in one extended take (beating OKGO at their own game, you could say). It's a fitting visual accompaniment to the entire album. FIBS is a wild, breathtaking ride full of stunning musical dexterity. And that's no lie.