Alt-J – An Awesome Wave


Freemasons rejoice! As a shape, and sometime symbol, the triangle is getting excellent press at the moment. Perhaps, somewhere out there, a geometry sect has enlisted a spin-doctor to improve our subconscious opinion of the pragmatic polygon. And when it’s not manifesting visually in fashion, graphic design and everything Kate Moross does, it’s manifesting audibly in the incomparable sounds of (Alt-J).

Every ounce of work to surface from the Leeds quintet has struck entirely different tones, making ‘An Awesome Wave’ quite the unpredictable beast. As a former Ones To Watch, we’ve followed them closely and come to this conclusion: the only thing that can ever be guaranteed with Alt-J is variation.

Expectedly, the album opens with ‘Intro’, a platter of their musical tendencies. Indicative of what’s to come. The keys dictate the melody, sparse guitars spread out behind and liberal, distorted bass drones (that any bedroom producer would be proud of ) provide chance drops. One could cautiously draw comparisons to Radiohead, in the way Alt-J veer through styles and ideas, and the warming, cosmic folk of early track ‘Something Good’ supports this with stuttering beats and meandering piano.

The abundance of interludes on the LP show how highly Alt-J value a flowing mood. Each operates as a go-between, none more so than the haunting oohs of ‘Interlude 3’, which sits between the raucous ‘Fitzpleasure’ and more timid ‘Bloodflood’. Without it, the two would struggle to accord.

A peak arrives with the deep opening plucks of ‘Breezeblocks’. Throughout this dark and feisty love song, an ominous picture is painted. As Joe Newman’s vocals roll into each other, the outline of a masochistic and disturbed romantic character forms. “Please break my heart,” he demands as a dramatic crescendo builds. “I love you so” and “I’ll eat you whole” are muttered simultaneously. Subtle, and in schizophrenic harmony.

Like many felt when The xx released their eponymous LP, it seemed too complete and rounded to ever be a debut. Alt-J are similarly composed. Young, yet somehow void of naivety. Vibrant, yet artistically matured. Even the naff name will slowly grow on you. More like this, please!


Words by Joe Zadeh

Alt-J play the Now Wave Stage at Parklife Weekender in Manchester on 8th-10th June 2012. Find out more and win tickets to the festival.

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