As swivel-eyed austerity bandits force many of our local libraries to the brink, the prospects of their inner-city equivalents are growing fat. In recent years, central libraries across the North West are being ambitiously refurbished and repurposed as majestic civic temples in a sort of cultural re-centralising by osmosis – the resources from beloved local branches perniciously soaked up by ostentatious metropolitan-hubs. But the upswing to isolating the socially vulnerable and the mobility impaired, is that young-urban-professionals like me have free access to WiFi seven days a week. We also get to gorge on the delights of ambitious after-hours programming like Get It Loud, an award-winning project that delivers ‘wow-factor’ gigs in libraries across the region. American singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer has also delivered a library set in this hallowed space, and tonight, dear readers, we’re here to see the eminently ‘experimental’ ANNA MEREDITH.
In sharp contrast to the rest of humanity, accomplished alt-composer Anna Meredith is having a fairly agreeable 2016. Her first full-length LP, Varmints, has earned her Scottish Album Of The Year and near-panoramic acclaim from gatekeepers at every outpost. Her transition from classical/contemporary composer to popular electronic talent has appeared to buck the trend among her peers more half-hearted transformations. Edinburgh-born Meredith of course, has had an excellent foundation from which to ascend, having gained her Masters degree at the Royal College Of Music, she later served as BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s composer-in-residence for a two year stint.
It is clear from Meredith’s maximalist inclinations on display this evening that she learned during this time to exploit every inch of the concert hall. Tracks like R-Type and Max Tundra envelop our Central Library with a barrage of arpeggios that seem to occupy at each audible frequency. This is further exemplified by the instrumentation, which is co-opted for range and not just for affectation; a tuba, a cello and a recently purchased toy-glockenspiel are coarsely blended with a cursory blast of clarinet. In waves though, the cacophony of disparate timbres is difficult to withstand. At some points the sound is of a conservatoire students’ first-ensemble rehearsal; a random assortment of prodigious players, brashly exploring polyphonic pop in a rudimentary fashion. I begin to question the very notion of ‘experimental music’ and if it should be so willingly applied to Meredith’s work, if at all. Yes, the blend of instruments is unconventional in this context but this is not aleatory music – there is no element of chance, or overt moments of improvisation. Despite the far-reaching acclaim of an esteemed composer turned alt. pop pioneer, there is still a sense that this set is born on notation software and never quite lived up to its conception.