Anna Meredith is one of those artists who seems endlessly inventive. Some make a fuss over her blending acoustic instruments and synthesized sounds but whether she does or whether she doesn’t isn’t the point. How well she blends those elements and how seamlessly she bridges the distances between pop music, the avant garde, progressive rock, the past, the present and the future on this recording (and others) is.

The record opens with “Nautilus,” a wild, multi-dimensional missive from the future, a call to arms or invocation of the eclectic muse. It’s disturbing, unsettling and a perfect invitation to listen to this record more deeply than you’ve listened to most of the music you’ve heard in your life. Before long, we take a turn toward “Taken,” which has the high camp theater and sincerity of a latter-day Sparks tune before launching into something you can bang on the floorboards to during the morning commute. That balance of the old (a chorus you can sing to/lyrics that have something to say) and the oncoming (sounds that push the boundaries of the norm) gives rise to exhilaration as the listener hangs on tight to hear what comes next.

And what comes next is a host of things: There’s the colossal wonder of “R-Type,” a technicolor sonic meditation that makes life worth living; there’s “The Vapours,” a transmission for a satellite heart deep in some other universe; there’s “Honeyed Words,” a sophisticated meditation from the heart of a machine longing to get to know you better; there’s also “Shill,” a tune positively brimming with excitement and danger and cheering the listener into a cross-genre and inter-universe orgasm.

As strange as the record often sounds, as bold as it often can be it’s also an incredibly comforting release to have for Meredith’s ability to marry the known and the unknown in such a way that you believe you really are witnessing the birth of something new. We all know it’s been too long since something that exciting happened and happen here it does.

Take the soothing beauty of “Blackfriars” or “Dowager,” which is as positively weird and wonderful as one of Yes’s stranger poems or something that the band’s vocalist, Jon Anderson, might have saved for one of his remarkably world-turning solo efforts. Or take just about anything on this record, really—a collection born of love and meant to send us scrambling for nomenclature to accurately describe what we’re thinking and feeling.

Of course, as is so often the case with the best art, we’re going to come up a little short as we seek out those words, as we attempt to discuss something as gorgeous as what Meredith has created here, something that eludes us and yet seems so positively familiar and very much our own at the same time.

It’s fantastic to have music of that caliber making its way into the world at this moment in time and for it to give us the kind of hope we find here on Varmints.

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