There has been unbridled praise across the board for Anna Meredith's second album, FIBS, now available on the Moshi Moshi label. Following on from her first release, Varmints, FIBS the new release once again features her versatile 5-piece band showcasing guitar, cello, tuba, drums and with the composer on vocals, clarinet, keyboard and tub-thumping percussion.
Following a recent UK tour, there are a number of festival appearances planned for later in the year, including Latitude, Roskilde, End of the Road and Bluedot.
'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.'
The Guardian (Rachel Aroesti), 25 Oct 2019'… she sounds on even more exuberant form here, fusing the drama of the classical repertoire with sweeping pop (Inhale/Exhale) and turbo-charged acid house (Calion). In fact, FIBS's wild creative leaps know no boundaries, Killjoy sounding like scaled-up Stereolab while Bump cheekily nods to Star Wars. A thrilling testament to Meredith's seemingly limitless capacity for reinvention.'
Q Magazine (Rupert Howe), January 2020'Meredith's second solo album FIBS continues this cross-pollination of pop and orchestral tropes, generating euphoric, radio friendly highs via bright, juddering compositions… she's the type of restless innovator that doesn’t stick with the same style for too long, and FIBS is a joyful, energetic follow-up to her debut.'
The Wire (Claire Sawers), October 2019'Her second studio album, FIBS, is as limber and exhilarating as Meredith has ever been. Twisting and sweeping, full of sharp left turns and thrilling rollercoaster dips, this is Meredith at her most maximalist.Much like Nautilus, Sawbones is an opener that sees FIBS rocketing out of the starting gate. With a candy-striped synth and a complete disregard for regular time signatures, it feels like stepping onto a Wurlitzer after too much fizzy pop; a rush of lights, abstract shapes and sheer thrill.The transfixing moonmoons is perhaps as low-key as Meredith goes which, in a wider context, is not that much more low-key. Its delicate start, featuring strings and arpeggiated synth playing off one another, grows like a hurricane gaining speed. It brings a dramatic beauty to FIBS as light and dark come to blows in incredible fashion.Somewhere between these two worlds is Calion. A gothic dub groove that transforms into the soundtrack to one of those nightclubs in Blade, you can practically feel the sweat illuminated by pulsing neon lights. The walls grow thicker and begin to close in, but you continue to race forward even as things become tighter. It’s a four-to-the-floor dancefloor hit twisted out of shape, and it’s stunning.And then there’s Paramour, which is one of the finest tracks Meredith has ever created and a calling card highlighting all the things she does so well. There’s an infectious love of music imbued in this track, which reaches a giddy 176 BPM as clarinet, tuba, guitar, xylophone, synth and percussion all come to a head. Like stepping off your favourite theme park ride, there’s an instant need to join the queue and experience it all over again…The classical world is full of formalities, unwritten rules and serious musical taboos. Meredith knows them all; perfecting them so now she can break them. FIBS is thrilling because it doesn’t adhere to the usual. A freewheeling, freethinking treat for the senses which reveals a musician at the height of her powers.'
The Line of Best Fit (Chris Taylor), 25 October 2019'"Genius" is a word, so overused and misplaced, but in the case of Anna Meredith there is a good case for its use. In her hands, sound is malleable, something to be shaped into new forms.FIBS, her second album, builds on the brilliance of 2016's Varmints, but is in no way a "follow-up." It's is a 45-minute, polyrhythmic, Technicolor explosion of ideas and styles that condenses her 20 years of composing, performing, and producing to create a work of wonder.Dropping the old Midi-patches of her debut, Meredith has expanded the sonic palette to paint a more vivid, more human picture while retaining the mechanised strangeness. This is Varmints augmented and upgraded. Opener Sawbones incorporates the lifting synth line from Varmints' mega-banger Nautilus as the song dissipates, sonically bombing her old work into oblivion, starting again. Meredith is clearly announcing this is not more of the same.A wider range of instruments both electronic and traditional makes FIBS a richer experience and adds moments of beauty. The floating cello on "moonsmoons'" battles with glitches and oscillating synth lines to create future classical sounds that enthral.FIBS is packed with influence touch points while always sounding utterly unique. As a deeply maximalist arranger Meredith travels from synthwave on Calion, to Regency era keys meets math rock on Bump and, even sweet electronic pop on the likes of Inhale Exhale and Ribbons.Meredith's vocal also takes more prominence, setting herself up as a potential mainstream pop star should that ever be something she wanted to be. Pop melodies and hooks dot in and out of the experimental noise, making FIBS a more accessible record for the casual listener.Single Paramour is a kaleidoscopic genre-journey that collides the bombastic synths of Varmints material with motoric rhythms and Battles circa Mirrored guitars. It's a big tune that more than matches its clear ambition.FIBS revels in toying with expectations and uncovers more wonders with every listen.'
Under the Radar (James Thornhill), 23 October 2019'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. moonmoons, 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…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.'
Popmatters (Chris Ingalls), 25 October 2019'The clarion sounds that opened Anna Meredith’s first pop recording—a Novation synthesizer’s brass and tuba presets and a cello, on Nautilus, from the 2012 EP Black Prince Fury—simultaneously created her musical trademark and set her on a fresh path. The phrase is a bold, symphonic fanfare that, once the rock drums hit, announced a genre-free space while helping Meredith ascend from the contemporary classical sandbox. The song became something like the Scottish composer/producer/singer-songwriter’s sonic signature, returning on subsequent releases (her 2016 full-length debut, Varmints, as well as Bo Burnham’s 2018 film Eighth Grade, which also features her gorgeous original score); variants now reappear throughout her new album FIBS. Most importantly, it highlighted how Meredith brings musical tropes familiar to the masses—in this case, marches of cinematic elephants and stormtroopers, or textures of grime and Southern hip-hop, or the pulse of Carnival parades—into rarified arts spaces, challenging assumptions about class, meaning, and volume inherent to both concert halls and clubs, while trying to keep the fun and the seriousness in both.These are also among the social and narrative tensions at the heart of FIBS. With her second proper album, Meredith shelves the notion of a small group making symphonic dramas and instead takes increasing advantage of the dynamic power that a synth- and guitar-driven band can generate, in the way that some downtown New York composers did during punk’s heyday. The shift also informs her music’s sentimental upheaval, giving it an increasing immediacy and wrapping it in a vaguely political air. FIBS never stoops to proclaim itself pro- or anti- any forces currently in diametric opposition (in the UK or around the world). But it is music that embodies this precarious historic juncture, mirroring the chaos and instability of the contemporary moment in its very form. In this, Meredith has written a set of pieces that better speaks to our era than her classically trained peers’ middlebrow drones and respectful sit-down music. FIBS is just too loud and nervy for that—kinda like the newsfeed.Even before Nautilus, Meredith seemed predestined for this terrain, with one foot in pop and another in new classical, and choreographing those limbs to brilliant effect. Her catalog—a solo for bassoon amplified like punk guitar; a Steve-Reich-meets-Stomp “Body Percussion” orchestral piece; an IDM mash-up of a brunch classic, etc.—is recommended to anyone bored by much of what passes for contemporary repertoire. After Nautilus, Meredith’s pop miniatures also reflected an art-school nature. It’s in her non-traditional instrumentation and songwriting, whose complex structures and crisp lyrical narratives have precedents throughout the UK’s post-punk, art-prog, synth-pop timeline. Varmints was a wonderful embrace of this space, full of sinewy pop songs and instrumentals that echoed the propulsion of Pixies and New Order, often heavy on the backbeat, always rightfully assured in their own greatness.Yet from its title on down, Varmints also hinted that, while the drums and instrumental runs were intent on activating the serotonin, more diseased thoughts about the state of our institutions were also present. Taken, which featured Meredith amid a trio of voices and has the dark, muscular feel of synth pop on steroids, was unsparing in its take on a world that the sun once never set upon: “What seemed a good idea has fast become a fraying waste of time.” FIBS picks up the sentiment three years later, when those words not only don’t sound the slightest bit dated, they’re the foundation for the current rot. Inhale Exhale is FIBS’ own propulsive sequencer-and-toms prologue, but Meredith sounds like she’s singing from an island, exasperated: “You say you're dancing in the deep end/But to me, it looks like drowning/All this talk of saving, but I'm out of my depth.” Her wordless vocal ushers in the song’s primary melody, and a title-repeating chorus arrives with the kick drum and a stuttering bass synth; when the song rolls on, with all the layers working as a single mechanism, it explodes as a trebly pop runaway, at once hyper-vivid and hyper-tense. It is an expertly produced rush that foresees an imminent crash, delivered in a voice that has already lived its consequences.That chaotic uncertainty is the reality Meredith repeatedly presents on FIBS, both emotionally and through musical structure. It is the work’s deeper raison d’être, even when the individual pieces seem digestible, pretty, or even safe. The feverish Sawbones is a prog-rock hallucination, fluidly Frankensteining one sonic caricature onto another, juxtaposing high-pitched staccato keys with bass-synth splurges, mutating into guitar arpeggios that interact with disco hi-hats, and so on. Calion could easily qualify as a beatless techno piece, its muted kick appearing beneath undulating melodic percolations; yet soon enough a dubwise low end appears like an earthquake to destabilize the whole thing, as the swirling mass tumbles all around. Bump brings back the signature Nautilus textures with an even more egregious “Imperial March” nod, as Jack Ross’ guitar drills into its structure to make this song too fall apart before reconstituting as a mammoth one-note guitar-synth riff. Paramour tacks that familiar brass fanfare (tuba now courtesy of Tom Kelly) onto a hyperactive, electronics-driven instrumental, pairing them with a squealing guitar in the closest thing to funk syncopation that Meredith can be accused of. All of it is intense music of supreme control and a designed anarchy, full of loud proclamations that go a long way toward embodying the album’s title.The parts of FIBS that lie on the outskirts of these Technicolor spasms of pandemonium bring meaning and reprieve—on occasion, simultaneously. Killjoy musically quotes the Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere while applying Meredith Monk-like vocal repetitions to wonderful verses that showcase a confrontation with modern life (“Thanking you for leaving/Do what’s best to save face…/Thanking you for stealing/What's left of the daytime”); the chorus follows these up as an assertion of personal will. moonmoons and Limpet are two of the softest and most musically straightforward instrumentals Meredith has set to record—the former a lovely duet between electronics and cello in which clouds gather and dissipate, the latter a guitar-heavy ride with a hook that features Meredith’s take on a Clearmountain pause. Those songs’ simplicity suggests the deep breath required of survival. Yet survival is not at all assured on the closing elegy Unfurl, where a suddenly vulnerable Meredith intones, “Something's bound to break/It better not be me.” And who could blame her?There is, throughout FIBS—and Anna Meredith’s career—a necessary act of pretension at play. Not the act of putting on airs or simple mimicry, but of pretending, what Eno once called the “thought experiments [of finding] out what it would be like to be otherwise” for culture’s benefit. What began with Meredith turning the Novation presets up to 11 and seeing how they fit with Bonham-like drums has, rather strangely, ended up a musical expression of dancing through a world full of lies, not wanting to stop, and seeing where else it takes her. Back around Nautilus, Meredith said that, to her, “honesty is more interesting than originality.” Her acts of pretension have seen her wind up with a fair bit of both.'Pitchfork (Piotr Orlov), 5 November 2019