Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Alt-J (∆) - An Awesome Wave

You would have to have been living in a broadband lacking cave recently to miss out on the Alt – J hype which has swept so suddenly over the internet. The Cambridge four-piece dubbed as ‘folktronica’ (which is a fucking stupid label really) have turned heads by being pretentiously named after the command to create a delta symbol on a mac, but also as a result of their tight-knit harmonies and hypnotic guitar lines.

Fortunately for the band, ‘An Awesome Wave’ easily puts to bed any accusations of pretention, as it by far and away the most self- assured debut of the year so far. The band haven’t been shy to explain the references which litter the album. ‘Breezeblocks’ is based on Where The Wild Things Are and ‘Fitzpleasure’ on a book by Hubert Selby Jr. The complex instrumentation of ‘Dissolve Me’, one of the best songs , fades away to almost nothing as Joe Newman whispers ‘she makes the sound/the sound the sea makes/to calm me down’; the most haunting lyric.

‘Matilda’ is calmer than a lot of the rest of the album although it keeps up a high tempo which is consistent throughout ‘An Awesome Wave’. ‘Interlude 1’ is the main interlude of the three which intersperse songs to stand out as it shows off the quartet’s raw talent as the a-cappella track leaves the bands voices free from instruments to build through various harmonies. The contrast between the layers of guitars and calm simplicity ensure that the listener is truly drawn into ‘An Awesome Wave’. The songs can switch from fast paced to washed out and thoughtful within seconds, giving them a sense of unpredictable excitement.

Comparisons have been made to Radiohead and the XX, as the album has been received rapturously pretty much everywhere. It is quite rare for a band to only increase their hype once their album has come out (all of us can think of bands which have promised much from first singles but delivered litte), but alt-j definitely deserve it. Not so much ‘folktronica’, more like ‘layered guitar lines mixed in with stunning vocals and hip hop drums’. Although that’s not quite as catchy as a tagline.


Jessy Parker

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