Saturday 28 July 2012


Finally. Finally. Finally.

Finally, I have drummed up enough energy to write about this amazing album. It truly is. From distorted sub-bass to folk guitar and literary references, this album has it all and delivers it in such a stylishly effortless way, allowing you to sit back and soak it all up like some kind of joyous land sponge with an addictive personality.

I saw that it'd been extensively covered online, yet the word of mouth is only just starting. So please start now, and please share these wonderful sounds to all of your friends. This can be enjoyed in any country, at any time of day, with any people, in any mood, by people of any age, any class, any musical preferences, any backgrounds. I think the word is 'universal'.

So anyway, this is alt-J, or if you like. The name is how to make that little triangle on Mac keyboards. As mentioned by bassist in the band, Gwil, "in mathematical equations it’s used to show change" and it couldn't have been more apt. The music on this fantastic album An Awesome Wave marks some kind of change: it's very different to a lot of what I've heard before.

Kindly enough the band put the whole album on SoundCloud. That's a tick next to their name. Not only this but they were also kind enough to provide notes to each song. It helps explain the album, which fortunately or unfortunately (depends how you look at it), needs a bit of explaining at some points. 'Intro' for example is described as having been originally called 'Nod to Canon' and in fact acts a tribute to "everything that we have unconsciously borrowed/stolen which has unwittingly contributed to our body of work to date."

That 'canon' encompasses Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are in 'Breezeblocks', Luc Besson's Leon in 'Matilda', Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr. and Robert Capa and Gerda Taro (two war photographers) in 'Taro'. In addition to fictional/well-known influences, there's the death of a matador referenced in 'Something Good', a childhood memory in 'Dissolve Me', and a violent experience in 'Bloodflood'. It's packed full to the brim of these influences and is perhaps what makes An Awesome Wave such an enjoyable listen.

For example, I didn't know anything about those war photographers. I looked them up when I first listened to the song. Now I know about them. Things that make new connections in the brain are quite exceptional. But really, alt-J have just used the simplest and most effective formula existing to create music: as Steve Jobs said, "Creativity is just connecting things."

I've already written too much, I'm so sorry. Musically, this album is just as good as it is conceptually. Some stand-out parts, then. There are the altered, guttural vocals on 'Intro' - highlighting the strength and unique nature of the vocals in general. Similarly, the refrained, subsequently layered and sung in a round style 'Please don't go, I love you so' in 'Breezeblocks' is sheer pleasure to listen to (same in 'Matilda' - you forget the power of repetition). The shivering, lusty vocal style in 'Tesselate' is something great too, sounding like whispers from the heart of the world. The refrain in 'Something Good' is beautifully catchy, too.

That song also includes a great drop into its more folksy part at around a quarter of the way into the track, blissfully sending you out in a row boat onto a lake bubbling with new and old sounds that come up to greet you like cartoon fish. The childish, happy rhythms of 'Dissolve Me' support the conceptual childhood memory that runs through the song lyrically and there's this beautiful nostalgia that is ingrained into all parts of that song just popping out of it like fireworks.

Juxtaposition of acoustic guitars (the first interlude, for example), vocal harmonies (splendorous in 'Ms' and the stunning hidden track 'Hand-Made') and real drum sounds with meaty and nearly disfiguring extended bass notes, wildly distorted and spine-straighteningly strong, is refreshing to hear. Strongest in 'Intro', 'Dissolve Me' and especially 'Fitzpleasure' (whose now-and-again guitar riff is hollow, hard and heavy), it's an example of the 'folk-step' sound they seemed to have created.

Just as brilliant creating energy and making you feel crazy as they are being prettily minimalistic and chilled (as in parts of 'Bloodflood' and 'Taro'), these diverse musicians seem set for great things. Could write even more. Says it all. Sorry for wasting your time. Buy this album.

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alt-J on SoundCloud
Here's their official site
And their Tumblr page
Here they are on Facebook
This is their YouTube channel
Follow alt-J on Twitter
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  1. What an album. Whoa! a mix of a bit of everything...great share RTD2

  2. Brilliant isn't it? Looking forward to what they will do next. Also any remixes of their stuff would be interesting to hear.