Elsewhere by Graham Reid

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Wide angle reviews, interviews and opinion by writer Graham Reid

Alt-J: An Awesome Wave (Infectious)

Alt-J: Fitzpleasure
Alt-J: An Awesome Wave (Infectious)

These days genre-ignoring bands are so common they require no introduction or explanation.

But few are as provocative as Alt-J out of Cambridge, England who pull together slivers of Anglo-folk with hip-hop beats (like sons of the Beta Band), electronica ideas rendered acoustically, electro-blip from recent Radiohead, a cappella harmonies and angular pop of the romantic Belle and Sebastian-go-prog kind.

On paper that shouldn't work but when they nail the pop end (Matilda, Breezeblocks, the choral-inclined Ms) or get weirdly gritty (the downplayed but strange prog-pop of the twanging and sexually graphic Fitzpleasure) this really connects the dots. And Blood Flood pulls the threads together in one place.

Unsurprisingly this literate, conceptually-inclined band (lyrics linking across songs, lovely origami CD sleeve) met at university: there's intellect rather than gut instinct on songs like Tesselate and the conceit of an Intro and three inconsequential Interlude pieces which is a bit precious.

The Fleet Foxes-familiar closer Taro/Handmade – annoying with the hidden bit five minutes after the first part ends – shows while this is a slightly flawed confection they sound primed to be the Next Indie.Cult Thing to go middle-sized, if not bigger.

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Your Comments

Jos - Aug 13, 2012

Love these guys, best thing I've heard foe ages, the whole album is excellent.
Nicely weird.

Dean Jonasson - Aug 17, 2012

Arresting combination of sounds and textures. There are many influences and touchstones to recognize. (Being an old geezer) I also hear Howard Werth (Audience) in Joe Newman's vocals. It's how the human voice is presented, enhanced, stripped and/or reconfigured that gives Alt-J a distinctive identity. Certainly worth further investigation.

Mike ashby - Mar 14, 2013

Repeated listenings imposed by my 16yo son have convinced me that these guys are stunningly good. Beyond the wonderful textures, the wierd but wonderful instrumentation that, once you've adjusted your mind, become compelling, beyond all that are some stunning riffs and hooks and some gorgeous melodies. Matilda is just gorgeous. Like it more every time i hear it - the mark of a great album.

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Tags: best of elsewhere 2012