Cascading an endless creativity, step forth the new sound of 2012, “An Awesome Wave” from the triangle loving Alt J (∆ on all good computers) as lead singer Joe Newton swirls his soft falsetto tones on the extraordinary “Tessellate”: “triangles are my favourite shape/three points where two lines meet/toe to toe, back to back, lets go my love, it’s very late/’til morning comes, let’s tessellate”. This intelligent songwriting is matched by an equally brilliant and indeed awesome wave of inventive sounds, samples, instruments and harmonies, which will have genre-ists scratching their heads as to which genre list to place this hotly tipped to be amazing Leeds/Cambridgeshire outfit, who have detonated on to the scene this year.
The music is an exciting concoction, which often builds from a quiet intensity to an explosion of electricity and passion as the blandly titled, though certainly absorbing “Intro” performs. That might ease you into the choppy jacuzzi of an “Awesome Wave”, as the rest of the album is rather hyperactive; pulling in a variety of influences and sounds from distorted base, hard folk, brooding synth, strange samples and hard arse guitar, from the furious “Fitzpleasure” to the sweet sounding ‘ode to a bull-fight’ summer ballad “Estocada”. These stark contrasts of styles and indulgences in what has become increasingly known as “folk step” (hear “Dissolve Me”, especially) and will compel you to listen carefully to Alt-J this summer and beyond. With lyrics referencing everything from Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” (“Breezeblocks”), to Luc Besson’s “Leon” (“Matilda”), the band are certainly not short of intellectual, highly entertaining (Please don’t go/I’ll eat you whole) if not slightly pretentious references, but then again they all graduated with English Literature degrees – bloody students.
Yet despite the musical additives akin to a delicious ready meal, there is also a delightful elegance in “An Awesome Wave”‘s progression. Charmingly broken up with short interludes, the album has a formulaic approach (harking back to their love for maths and angles and stuff). A very tightly woven album, where songs never extend the four minute mark, the music gives that impression of a giant Hawaiian wave crashing slowly in front of you (we’ve all been there, right?) the hidden closer “Handmade” providing the moment the surf gets sucked out to an endless ocean, as the sun slowly sets. The more you listen, the more you will profit from the extended meaning, the beauty and the sheer originality of this masterful debut offering.
“An Awesome Wave” is out now on Infectious Records