Album Review: Alt- J An Awesome Wave

Tessellate music with Alt- J


Azarrah Karrim| To compare any artist with another is not only pointless, but it’s illogical and insulting to many musicians who’s sound is altogether original. This is more so applicable in the case of Alt- J. They are musically and technically unlike any other musician, giving us the hope that there is still space for new music in the business.

Alt- J’s newest album, An Awesome Wave, released in 2012 is a compilation of glitchy rock rhythms with an underlying foundation of R&B and folk beats.

Although that might sound like making a collage out of odds and ends, Alt- J has made a skill out of making the songs flow and fit together.

The combination of these odds and ends result in intriguing new designs and sounds- all done by a group of men who were only curious to see what would happen.

The most striking aspect of the album is front man, Joe Newman’s, voice. In the first song, aptly named “Intro”the nasally sound may seem annoying to some, but to others it’s refreshing.

As a well-trained singer many of the songs rely on his singing as well as the back-up vocals. In “Interlude I” there are no instruments, only the soulful harmony, which sounds like the glitches of a computer robot at times (odds and ends), of voices singing out over the silence.

The album starts off as a simple, in between genre, compilation, with their hit singles like “Breezeblocks” and “Tessellate” easing us in with a mellow R&B- indie vibe. As it progresses, however, it gets more exciting with sudden bursts of Indian sounding excerpts in “Taro” and Jamaican steel drums back- tracking the melancholy “Dissolve Me”.

 It is this progression and build-up of the songs which never tires a listener out. There is a mix in each song of experimentalism and pop which, as Newman says, makes the album so “accessible”.

However, some may feel like the music is too experiential and Newman’s voice too annoying. The technicalities of each song might make it hard for listeners to really connect with them and it might be seen as too arbitrary and airy, as if Alt- J were lost during the recording process.

Yet, there is a reason they have won the prestigious Mercury prize, and have risen to fame without the need for mainstream media. “Part of the reason [the album] is accessible” says Newman, “is because we don’t try to go out of the box or be innovative. We just try to play music we like to hear.”


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