Songs We Love: Anna Meredith, 'Taken'
British composer Anna Meredith produces so many types of works that attempts at a simple summary of what sort of musician she is are laughable, almost quaint. She's written an orchestral symphony with beatboxing and traditional chamber music, made post-pop remixes and a large-scale percussion piece for the body. There's more than a fair chance that the set of Meredith sounds one hears first will be nothing like the next, common threads being a love of compositions that build and a comfort with rhythm and textures which places her in both the contemporary classical community and the experimental electronic music camp. Neither allegiance is tenuous.
"Taken" is the second track released from the 37-year-old Londoner's long-overdue debut full-length album, Varmints. It's a 12-"song" collection that's been highly awaited by those who've listened to Meredith mature in public (since 2004, she's served as a composer in residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, among many credits), as it has been by the "experimental pop" audience who discovered her work via a pair of EPs (2012's Black Prince Fury and 2013's Jet Black Raider) on the excellent U.K. indie label Moshi Moshi.
"Taken" should disappoint neither constituency. With its syncopated mix of sequenced synthesizer, bursting Pixies-like guitars, two-part male-female harmonies speak-singing like they're auditioning for one of Brian Eno's vocal records of the mid-'70s (a la Eno, the lyrics seem chosen more for their syllabic rhythms than for meaning) and a simple 4/4 beat, it splits the art-pop difference between minimalist piece and proggy post-punk anthem. But more than anything else, like much of Meredith's music, "Taken" sounds exceedingly human, aspirational and not overwrought. When guitarist Jack Ross, drummer Sam Wilson and she finally scream out the song's title towards the end of its circuitous five minutes, it's a life-affirming release after rounds of wrenching musical tension.
Meredith also has a history of working with art-minded visuals (she's collaborated with her sister Eleanor, a prominent illustrator) and of commissioning music videos that could easily live in a gallery. Hence, it's no surprise that, when discussing his rhythmically astute, system-oriented clip for "Taken," the director Ewan Jones Morris cites "[David] Hockney's 'joiners' and Sol Lewitt's photographs" as inspirations. The video is eminently playful and light-hearted, yet as tightly wound as the music it accompanies.
Varmints is out on March 4 on Moshi Moshi
Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.