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June 05

∆ AKA alt-J

By The Miista
Alt-J is the next best thing in...rock...electro...modern folk...music, let's just go with music. It's always fun when you get to discuss The Internet. That all encompassing being that pervades every aspect of life, and really that's changed every aspect of life -- including music. With the advent of sites like Pandora and Spotify it seems that the true purists of music fandom have begun to disappear. In their place we have all those people -- and likely you're one of them -- who when asked "what type of music do you listen to" invariably respond "a bit of everything." With the accessibility of all your favorite tunes plus everything you've never heard it would be silly at this point to pigeonhole yourself into one genre -- and it seems that this is now true of the artists as well. Alt-J is a four piece collective from Cambridge whose breadth of styles and vibes, influences and references is just too much for the categories of the old world. Their music displays clear influence taken from Wild Beasts (who they recently toured with) and Elliott Smith; internally their personal tastes range from the drummer's love of dubstep, which you can check out on the band's blog he runs, to the keyboardist's past membership in an early music choir. Many try to peg them as a modern folk band, but their most common comparison? Radiohead. They're arranged as a standard rock band -- Joe Newman on vocals, Gwil Sainsbury on bass, Thom Green on drums and Gus Unger-Hamilton on keyboard -- but as Exystence explains "Alt-J are about as far away from your typical rock band as it's possible to get." The four members met at Leeds University and since graduation have taken to living and working in a nearby basement. There is definitely still a new car smell to them at this point -- the drummer uses a sauce pan in lieu of a cymbal by the way -- but the release of their debut album An Awesome Wave at the end of May tricked many a reviewer into thinking otherwise. The album has none of the tell tale signs of an amateur at the wheel. Instead, it is rounded, complete; an arrangement suggestive of old world skill, tradition and talent. The resulting critical acclaim has been called "rapturous," "over the top" and "excitable" as the band garners reviews laden with superlatives. "Innovative, electrifying musicianship"..."exemplary songwriting"..."creatively ambitious lyrics"..."a captivating blend of insatiable grooves and profound poignancy"...and the most common: "jaw-droppingly different from the norm." And a big part of that deviation comes from how terribly smart these young whippersnappers happen to be. Their lyrics are chock full of literary and cinematic references -- in fact they went by the name FILMS for a while, with the intent of drawing inspiration for each song from a different movie, but the SoCal garage band THE Films had beat them to the punch. And even before that, they were Daljit Dhaliwal after an Al-Jazeera newscaster. But third times a charm, Alt-J is here to stay -- especially since their fans are regularly throwing up that triangle! Oh, I guess it would help if you knew that Alt-J is the Mac computer command for ∆ (delta). Everyone loves throwing up signs. M∆tilda is based on Luc Besson's famous film Léon and explores what happens when both the protagonist and antagonist fall. The track is a bit creepy, a little weird. Fitzpleasure is based on a chapter from Hubert Selby Jr's incredibly NYC novel Last Exit to Brooklyn and rocks the synth. Breezeblocks is their first single and it's an inventive little tune, harmony heavy and based on Maurice Sendak, the visionary who gave all of us the masterpiece that is Where the Wild Things Are. Sources: Guardian & Sabotage Times
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