Record Label: Atlantic
Since forming at Leeds University in 2007, admiration and favorable comparisons have come thick and fast for Alt-J. Even before the release of their debut single on Loud And Quiet Recording in October of 2011, the band was likened to Wild Beasts, In Rainbows-era Radiohead, The xx and Antony & The Johnsons, four acclaimed acts noticeable by their ability to create the kind of patient, sophisticated, intricate music that Alt-J hangs their hat on.
However, so much of the band’s sound is their own, perhaps because, as guitarist/bassist Gwil Sainsbury puts it, “we never had any ambitions at all.” From Joe Newman's (guitar/vocals) high soul cry and Thom Green's (drums) refusal to drum with cymbals, to the sparse guitars and Gus Unger-Hamilton's (keyboards) delicate key clunks, a neat sound-bite for Alt-J’s music is yet to be coined, and perhaps never will be. And by challenging what constitutes folk, hip hop, indie and pop music, the band quickly found themselves in the studio at the beginning of 2012, recording their debut album for Infectious Music with long-time producer Charlie Andrew (Micachu & The Shapes, Eugene McGuinness).
The result is An Awesome Wave, a debut album which further explores Alt-J's varied soundscapes and percussive, experimental grooves, but it’s also a record that isn’t as stringently leftfield as some might be expecting. Veering wildly from psychedelic avant pop to skeletal folktronica, the album promises to trade in understated beauty one minute and epic oddities the next, just as you’d expect from a debut album that tackles everything from love to bullfighting to the heroic life of 1930s war photographer Gerda Taro, crushed by a tank on the frontline.
Other tracks are inspired by cinema, including "Matilda" (about Natalie Portman’s character in Luc Besson’s Leon) and the Good The Bad And The Ugly referencing "Tessellate"; others seem to have come to the band as unexpectedly as they come to us, sounding like great experimental pop acts we already know.