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Anna Meredith: FIBS with London Contemporary Orchestra

photo of Anna Meredith in front of a white backdrop

‘I think this was definitely a gig that needed to be in person rather than streamed online, so it was about finding the right moment…’

Composer and electro-acoustic artist Anna Meredith has always dreamed up memorable music across varied realms, from the concert hall to the cinema screen, and even the fairground attraction. This weekend’s Barbican Centre programme includes elements of all of these, and tonight’s central performance re-envisions her thrilling second album Fibs (2019) with the London Contemporary Orchestra’s 55-piece live ensemble.

‘I knew I wanted to present the orchestra in a really equal way,' says Meredith ‘What’s nice about the LCO is that it’s never just ‘background stuff’; they always present really interesting arrangements and textures, so I feel really confident that the orchestra are going to be used really imaginatively.’

There’s a long-standing creative bond between Meredith’s band and the ever-adventurous LCO; Meredith has previously written for the LCO, and her drummer Sam Wilson is also the orchestra’s principal percussionist. ‘The LCO’s Robert Ames and Ben Corrigan have been doing the arrangements, and they’ve got notated pre-written material to work with,’ she explains. We went through the whole album and talked about arrangements and album colours.

‘In terms of the material, we’re doing some things where we change the electronics to make more space; at other points, it’s about adding more power and colour. So, I think it’s about getting a balance of moments where we feature the orchestra, and they also add to the material to give it more heft.’

LCO co-director Ames adds: ‘The absolute key was keeping all of the impact of the album and using the orchestration to shine a light on different parts of Anna's kaleidoscopic tunes. There is so much detail and intricacy in Anna's writing as well as hard-hitting full-on moments, the great thing about an orchestra picking up the electronic material is that you get to see this physically played out in a live setting.’

Fibs will be performed in full sequence tonight; tracks such as the vocal-led ‘Inhale Exhale’ and the heart-stirring atmospheres of ‘moonmoons’ have already proved a highlight of Meredith’s concert sets, but there will also be a chance to hear album material that’s never been performed live before now.

‘It feels like a real celebration of the album, and letting its order breathe properly,’ she says. ‘Even when I was writing Fibs, I was doing that to give each track its space.’

Fibs remains a genuinely exhilarating experience: shape-shifting through elegant, poignant and tumultuous moods, merging classical melody and heady rave energy. It followed Meredith’s excellent debut album Varmints (2016), winning further acclaim including a Mercury Prize nomination. It also arguably still feels like a pivotal point in Meredith’s sound; the gloriously giddy riffs of her Bumps For Minute work (composed for a dodgems ride/art installation at Somerset House in 2021) seem to ricochet out of the world of Fibs.

‘I think I hear more confidence, more playfulness, more ballsiness on Fibs,’ muses Meredith. ‘Maybe it’s a confidence to lead into the more haywire moments; I like to do fast things and slow things and out of control things, and they all got pushed a bit further with this album. It was a big step forward in terms of the assertiveness of the writing.’

The arrangements for this show should push that ethos further still. ‘Sam’s had some lovely ideas for unusual sound worlds and extended technique things that are going to sound really beautiful,’ she breezes. ‘We start with [Fibs opening track] ‘Sawbones’, which is always really exciting to play as a band; it kind of ‘pings’ you out of the gates – and witnessing a whole orchestra just pile in with that energy is hopefully going to set the whole night off in the right direction. And I’m trying to write a cheeky cover to end the gig – so my plan is to write some appropriately disgusting filth!’

Meredith is also excited about tonight’s support sets from electronic experimentalist Carmel Smickersgill and British Rwandan musician/sound artist Auclair. ‘They’re very different to each other, but both fantastic,’ she says. ‘Carmel is someone I’ve been mentoring for the past couple of years; like me, she has a classical background, and now she’s made a brilliant EP [We Get What We Want And We Don’t Get Upset]. Auclair is one of my closest friends, and she’s also made this EP, Giramata, that’s really personal and exciting; she’s got an amazing voice, literally and musically.’

Before and after tonight’s Fibs performance, Meredith will curate DJ sets – including a set from DJ Max Tundra – for a special Roller Disco session (free to concert ticket holders) in the Barbican foyer. Tomorrow, her sounds also spin us into the Barbican’s Cinema: Bo Burnham’s US coming-of-age movie Eighth Grade (2018) features Meredith’s enchanting score, performed live here for the first time.

‘I wanted to create a soundtrack that was tuneful, but also visceral, tense and euphoric – all those things we feel as awkward teenagers,’ she says. ‘I realise how lucky I’ve been; I was allowed to do my thing.’

Meredith undeniably does her thing throughout this weekend – and her music transports us to brilliantly unpredictable places: a collaborative playground; an otherworldly discotheque; a symphonic joyride in the City of London.


Produced by the Barbican




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