Album Review: Alt-J – ∆n ∆wesome W∆ve

Look around the Internet for a bit and all you are probably going to dig up on Alt-J is “Hey check it out! This band’s name is the keyboard shortcut for ∆”. Enthralling as this may be, there is much more to this band than their post-Internet band name. Alt-J garnered a bit of attention last year touring as the opening band for British outfit Wild Beasts, after the release of their fantastic album Smother. Alt-J was a perfect match, and now, thanks to a killer single with a darker sound, they are about to see the light of day again.

“Fitzpleasure” is an undeniably awesome track. It bounces between three personalities: the ominous, foreboding vocal harmonies, a driving bass and synth riff that will make you want to break stuff, and the atmospheric, ethereal, guitar interludes that refocus all that anticipation. It’s intense and a bit heavy on the brain for a sheer 3 and a half minutes, but “Fitzpleasure” is the perfect example of what Alt-J are capable of. With their all-over-the-place, quirky indie rock, they touch on a lot of sounds and a lot of textures in the 41 minutes of ∆n ∆wesome W∆ve. “Fitzpleasure” is a decent representation of what you’ll find, but it also serves as the emotional climax of the album. So if you are looking for these boys to get any antsier than that, it isn’t happening. Rather, the song’s placement on the album plays into its importance and its lasting effect.

∆n ∆wesome W∆ve is a rough and raw emotional surge of an album. Because of this, it’s fairly discontinuous at certain points. But on a second or third listen, the album starts to make more sense. Once you let go of expectation, ∆n ∆wesome W∆ve comes together to make an interesting and unique journey at ludicrous speed. “Intro” and “Tesselate” have the same driving, yet restrained vibe, that sounds a bit reminiscent of a less anthem-rock Temper Trap. Alt-J take a cheerier turn for second album single “Breezeblocks”, whose chorus riff is as catchy as anything you’ll find on the scene today.

In the middle of the album “Escotada (Something Good)” and “M∆tilda” scale back the electricity for two beautiful, nearly-acoustic ballads. “Dissolve Me”, an early favorite of mine, uses clever drum and percussion patterns with an unbeatable vocal harmony to make a beautiful driving tune akin to later Bloc Party. Then, “Ms” is a last build of beauty and gentleness before “Fitzpleasure” tears it all down in a beautiful destruction. From there, the albums energy slows to the close, with gorgeous texture-fest “Bloodflood” and the epic “Taro”.

Overall, ∆n ∆wesome W∆ve is a fantastic first effort from a new face. Granted, it took me a couple listens to really find the pacing of the album and get into the groove, but once that happens, the album is fairly rewarding and some of the tracks are really second to none. Hopefully, we will see Alt-J really hit it off this year as they share a great album with the world.

∆n ∆wesome W∆ve will be out on May 28. The band is touring throughout England, Ireland, and Germany through June of 2012, but after that, make sure to check up on their website and look for some North American dates! If you didn’t do it yet, listen to “Fitzpleasure” above”, and watch their video for “Breezeblocks” below:

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One Comment

  1. Jared
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    great review, beautiful album. i heard about it from troy a few weeks back when he worked the morning show. I really hope this gets the plays on kexp it completely deserves!. ….and thanks Troy!

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