REVIEW: ALT-J – AN AWESOME WAVE
On the Leeds based band’s Facebook page, under ‘influences’, it reads ‘haha’. Their approach to the music is quite sly and unique; the band set themselves apart from others in so many ways. Their debut album ‘An Awesome Wave’ is an impromptu mix of synth, acoustic and solemn mumbling. The album as a whole sounds influenced by many things, but other music artists are not one of them. The forward thinking music attitude fits in with the recent influx of retro artists (such as Ghostpoet, who they have recently played with.)
The opener, the aptly named ‘Intro’, acts as a teaser into the band’s music style. It is reserved and fantastically put together. The riffs melt out like the feathers of a peacock. Made entirely to show off; the layering of electronics and true musical talent build. The song has the makings of a true hit, timings and pauses presented to demonstrate true artistry.
The album after this is just as innovative, but it is hard to swallow in places. Alt-J have quite an anchored style, but it is constantly challenged by its varied compositions. ‘Tessellate’ and ‘Breezeblocks’ seem album favourites of the music fan-base so far. Tessellate is quite eerie, reminiscent of ‘Violet Hill’ by Coldplay.
Vocally, singer Joe Newman carries an alto sound with teeny hints of Jamiroquai. I would hesitate to use the word ‘frontman’ because the album obviously aims to bring a kind of equality to the artists of the band. The album is woven with three ‘Interludes’. Each is thought provoking and gentle, and gives the limelight to the musicians. The third one is Jeff Buckley kind of brilliant; rare and spine tingling. It is 53 seconds long but symphonic all the same.
In terms of innovation and composition, the album is a genuine stunner. ‘Bloodflood’ rises and falls through sparse, gentle lyrics. ‘Tide out, tide in, a flood of blood to the heart’. Little details like this make the album poetic. The lyrics wholly match the music content.
The cinematic end song ‘Hand-Made’ is beautiful in terms of lyrics, and the fast tinkling on the acoustic is impressive. However, the layering of the vocals is a bit harsh on the ears, it loses its gentility.
All in all, for a debut album Alt-J have not by any means taken a safe path. The band have been together (in some form) since 2007. The band met at University, and their style has grown and anchored since this time. The album reflects their wish to bring something new to the music scene. There Is definitely space in the market for them.
Review by Bryony Taylor