Merging elements of pop, electronic, and classical music into a short-form, compositional indie electronica, British composer Anna Meredith made her full-length debut with Varmints in 2016. Between its arrival and the release of the follow-up, among other projects, Meredith reimagined Vivaldi's Four Seasons for an immersive multimedia event (and later recording), she composed her first film score (Eighth Grade), she opened the Proms with a piece commemorating the end of World War I, and was made an MBE. She still managed to prepare a second solo album before the end of the decade. As was the case with Varmints, 2019's FIBS includes both songs and instrumentals. A reportedly time-consuming endeavor involving more and different instruments than on Varmints as well as more layers, it's a vibrant, kinetic album with often relentless rhythms. These recurring 16th-note patterns are established on first track "Sawbones," an instrumental with both acoustic and electronic elements, including playful, chiptune-type timbres and live drums. "Sawbones" seems to rev its engines as the layered tones' pitches climb in unison to blastoff level in tandem with increasingly active rock drums, before it abruptly ends. The majority of the 11 tracks here are similarly urgent and animated, including a song like "Killjoy," which, in addition to band instrumentation, features bright, a cappella-style, blended harmonic vocals. A couple of outliers -- or respites -- come in the form of "Ribbons" and the more nuanced violin piece "moonmoons." The latter's elongated solo melody and plucked accompaniment gradually devolve into tuneless rhythms and sound effects until layers are peeled away, one by one, at the end. Even "Ribbons" -- a whimsical, wistful tune with ethereal vocals, pulse-keeping tuba, hand drums, and scattered electric-acoustic atmosphere -- while less intense, is still inherently rhythmic. It's not until the aptly titled closing track "Unfurl" that FIBS offers percussion-free ambience behind Meredith's celestial vocal line. Curiously named for "nice friendly lies," FIBS takes listeners for a ride, so to speak, along the meticulously plotted rhythms of its very physical, narrative-free presentation, one that, in Meredith's hands, is both stimulating and engaging.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson