Available digitally now and on CD on June 9, the album features music from the Broadway show, including “Independently Owned

‘Nuc’ is an album comprised entirely of compositions from Meredith’s glittering career, and includes pieces re-arranged by Ligeti Quartet viola player Richard Jones (whose previous collaborations include Alex Turner, Jessie Ware and The Waeve), in conjunction with Meredith herself.

Formed in 2010, the London ensemble stand in pointed opposition to the dusty, antiquated image of the classical string quartet. Think not of the faded grandeur of those musicians that made a brave last stand on the sinking deck of the Titanic, but of an urgent, disruptive and restlessly creative juggernaut redefining the sonic and conceptual parameters of what can be achieved with these raw ingredients.

Named after György Ligeti, the legendary Hungarian avant-garde composer, Ligeti Quartet have built their reputation by bringing their experimental mindset into the types of public spaces that are not commonly reached by such future-focused work, from pubs and cinemas to community workshops and student unions. It is this crossover zeal that bonds them with Meredith, herself one of the most sought-after and revered names in contemporary composition, and an artist with a reach that far extends the traditional bounds of the established classical world: her contributions to the BBC Proms and the 2012 Cultural Olympiad are matched by her regular presence on BBC Radio 6 Music and her acclaimed score for the 2018 coming-of-age drama 'Eighth Grade'.

‘Nuc’ marks the thrilling alignment of the two camps’ aesthetics, with the durability and formal playfulness of Meredith’s core compositions enhanced by the transgressive, unorthodox touch of Ligeti Quartet’s interpretations. As Richard Jones explains, “When you’re able to use avant-garde techniques but in a pop context, then maybe that’s when you can bring more people in. The music industry worries about excluding people by doing something that doesn’t really fit into either camp, but I take the much more optimistic view, which is that you can bring people in from both camps.”

This is borne out on the new version of Meredith’s signature track ‘Nautilus’, where Jones redefines the breakneck percussive clamour of the original with taut bow scrapes and anguished staccato stabs, inducing an altogether more menacing, paranoid frenzy. Or on ‘Haze’, where Meredith’s idea of overlaying two separate recordings of the Ligeti Quartet creates a bewildering, spectral otherworldliness where sounds seem to slide in and out of sync with a devious malevolence, the discrepancies in the two performances seeming to feed back on each other with terrifying intelligence.

The connection between the two parties dates back nearly two decades, with both Meredith and Jones having followed the same educational path through the University of York and then the Royal College of Music, albeit separated by a few years. Their first tentative artistic collaboration came in 2012 with the Quartet’s interpretation of Meredith’s ‘Songs for the M8’, and the bond became strong and consistent enough that by 2019, ideas of a full-length project began to percolate.

Following the release of Ligeti Quartet’s 2020 album ‘Songbooks Vol. 1’, recently named by Songlines Magazine as one of the ‘essential 10 classical crossovers’ alongside artists including Kronos Quartet and Ravi Shankar, thoughts turned in earnest to amassing their already substantial collection of Meredith’s repertoire into a coherent long-player, with Meredith herself displaying more enthusiasm for the reimagining of her work than might be expected from your average modern-day prodigy.

Over just a handful of studio recording sessions, ‘Nuc’ emerged, an album named after the beekeeping term for a small nuclear colony of thronging, anxious activity wherein a central queen bee is swamped by a roving, searching mass of life. The analogy serves as a unifying mantra for the project – opening track ‘Tuggemo’, which translates from Old Gaelic as ‘Swarm’, serves as the lead single, its twitching, manic energy easily invoking the chaos of the hive, while the tenderness of the insects’ produce is explored on the aching, stately ‘Honeyed Words’. To Jones, even the phonic sound of the title ‘Nuc’ suggests the dichotomy of Meredith’s compositional trademark: cute, but simultaneously angular and violent.

Above all, what emanates from ‘Nuc’ is the spirit of independent thought, the triumph enjoyed by those freed from the shackles of convention and tradition. Ligeti Quartet rejoice most when moving through the zone of discovery that lies in the unexplored hinterland between the known and unknown, the same space that has been enjoyed in other musical realms by some of the group’s more unlikely heroes, such as The Velvet Underground and Fugazi. The attitude of experimentation and daring, where the popular and the refined stew alongside each other in the same cauldron of ideas, is central to ‘Nuc’, sealing the unbreakable bond that joins these two great artists.

‘Nuc’ is set to be performed live at a series of dates throughout 2023, as an amplified string quartet with augmented electronics. Touring will be accompanied by educational workshops in schools, in which ideas from the album will provide stimulus for student compositions based around Ligeti Quartet’s recordings.

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