Cambridge Natives Alt-J Impress
British quartet Alt-J (∆) hailing from the quaint town of Cambridge, has crashed into the music scene with their debut album “An Awesome Wave.” Their music demands and grabs the attention of their listeners by covering an array of genre from folk to pop to dubstep; at the core, there lays brilliantly creative lyrics sung by front man Joe Newman.
An Awesome Wave opens with “Intro” — an intricate layering of the keyboard (Gus Unger-Hamilton), electric guitars (Joe Newman and Gwil Sainsbury) and drums (Thom Green) accompanied by Joe and distorted electric voices.
“Interlude I (Ripe & Ruin)” makes a 360-degree change in that it is an a cappella showcasing Newman’s falsetto and is one of the three interludes in the album.
“Interlude II (Guitar)” and “III (Piano)” come later on in the album and takes a step out of the myriad of shifting genres and deep lyrics and lets the listener just breathe in and exhale soothing pieces.
“Tessellate” is the first full-length song, and it carves its identity with Newman crooning “Bite chunks out of me / you’re a shark and I’m swimming … go alone my flower / and keep my whole lovely you” — lyrics that seem to be an indirect result of hallucinogens. However, it blends extremely well with a musical arrangement of violins, organ-like piano strokes and backing vocals, giving it an overall dark and gothic ring.
As with this genre, “An Awesome Wave’s” lyrical writing can’t be pigeonholed into one category. Maurice Sendack’s “Where the Wild Things Are” is the inspiration behind the fast moving electric guitar riffing song “Breezeblock” that flaunts ambitious lyrics like, “She bruises, coughs, she splutters pistol shots / she’s the morphine queen of my vaccines.”
“Something Good,” a song with piano solos, is a haunting rendition of the dying moments of a matador, “Now that I am clean, the matador is no more and is dragged from view.” M∆tilda creates a trip-hop atmosphere and draws its origin in the cinematic world of Luc Besson’s “Léon: The Professional.”
“Bloodflood” is the slowest moving song in the tracklist, creating psychedelic beats — a dichotomy considering the fact that it is recounting the adrenaline changes in the human anatomy moments before being physically attacked.
“Taro” is by far the best song on the album, talking about the greatest wartime photographers Robert Capa and his ladylove Gerda Taro. Sung almost in poetic rhyme, it is about “le photographe [qui] est morte,” romanticizing Capa’s dying moments by recapturing it in French and giving it oriental influences.
“Dissolve Me” and “Fitzpleasure” are not to be missed, as they throw a curve ball by dabbling in dubstep synthesizers that further glorify their English word play.
Each song is a vignette on its own, set apart by the musical motifs but pulled by the common thread of deep and dark lyrics capturing dying moments. By having such varied components, “An Awesome Wave” could be heading down the downtrodden path of so many new artists that are trying too hard to blend in or stand out.
But one has a feeling that this is just the beginning, so “Are you sitting comfortably? Then [they’ll] begin.”