Alt-J is – strictly speaking – a command on a Mac that will produce the delta sign. Like so: △ (If you are a Windows user then you might just have to click on the symbols tablet and find it yourself. Sorry.)
However, pretty symbols aside, Alt-J also produces fine music. In fact, this band from Cambridge has blown me away with their debut album An Awesome Wave.
The band met at Leeds University, where all-bar-one studied Fine Art. This is highly noticeable in their style which has been described as “art-rock”. Each element of their sound feels like the band found a mathematical formula to finely balance their eclectic musical influences to produce one stunning album.
Their electro/indie/folk/step sound and urgent lyrics combined with dramatic piano and the singer’s very distinctive voice is something that could sound like an utter mess. Yet, when Alt-J put it all together, the results are more like a fine composition; similar to a complex perfume. Each note is clear but mellows into a heady and decadent scent.
The sound this band produce is undeniably different. At what point in my life did I imagine I would like a band that fuses dubstep, folk and hip hop?
Their impressive skill of using every genre under the sun and their ability to melt it into one coherent and catchy album is almost unnerving. The singer, Joe Newman recites the lyrics almost carelessly. But don’t be fooled: the words hold a lot of weight and even reveal their choice of the band’s symbol in the song “Tessellate”:
“Triangles are my favourite shape, three points where two lines meet.”
The very first time I heard “Breezeblocks” I was instantly hooked by its quiet, understated intro by bassist, Gwil Sainsbury and the easily accessible lyrics. It turns full pelt when drummer, Thom Green gets going and greets the listener with some hefty drums.
Another highlight is “Matilda”, a track inspired by Natalie Portman’s turn as a badass girl assassin in the film Leon.
After the atmospheric album intro, you will discover a whole goodie bag of instrumental and electronic delights. An Awesome Wave is a mishmash of moody tunes, with a voice that is strange and strong enough to carry you through safely. Listeners are kept on their toes by the ever-changing rhythm and flow of the songs.
The result is a mix of incredibly deep, yet ‘casual’ tunes. They will get under your skin and not leave until you have given each second and note the full attention it deserves.
Trust me, you will have this on repeat for a while. Let Alt-J be the soundtrack for that one amazing summer...
If you want to see the magic happen in front of your very eyes, I recommend catching them at this year’s End of the Road Festival. They are also touring the UK so check their tour page to not miss out!
Image via: press.atlanticrecords.com/altj