The debut studio album from Δ (pronounced Alt-J) could never be regarded as predictable, such is the variation of sound and dynamic that it produces. Five years in the making and produced by Charlie Andrew (of the Laurel Collective), An Awesome Wave is littered with film and literary references and features previously released singles ‘Breezeblocks’, ‘Tessellate’ and ‘Something Good’.
Signed to Infectious Records just last year, the Cambridge-based indie outfit has been well-received across North America, Australia and Europe with their music being described as genres as diverse as ‘folk’, ‘dub’ and ‘pop’. Being compared to Radiohead also has its advantages and for Alt-J, this means avoiding being placed into a box and the chance to mix it up a bit.
First track on the album, the fittingly titled ‘Intro’, launches a sturdy percussion sound – the constant thread throughout the album – whilst combining strong instrumentals with flowing and unobtrusive vocals. Three interludes interrupt the flow of the sounds (not necessarily in a bad way) and give the listener a simple glimpse at the pure musical talent of the Alt-J team, with a capella harmonies, acoustic guitar and subtle piano all making separate appearances.
‘Tessellate’ is one of An Awesome Wave’s standout releases, underlined by a pretty heavy beat and some ethereal backing vocals. It cryptically references a past flame, embracing some heavy material with a loose vibe. Another popular release, ‘Breezeblocks’, makes any pattern in Alt-J’s thinking indiscernible, featuring a xylophone, structured melody and great lyrics.
And right on the other end of the band’s sound spectrum come ‘Dissolve Me’ and ‘Matilda’ – both embracing a well-liked indie sound. Where ‘Dissolve Me’ is uplifting and unstructured, ‘Matilda’ carries a much darker sound, drawing inspiration from Luc Besson’s film Léon: The Professional.
Closing track ‘Blood Flood’, the lyrics from which the album’s name originates, concludes An Awesome Wave with a gradual building sound that features flowing vocals, great guitar and percussion lines and enigmatic lyrics. It’s an appropriate closing track that accurately sums up this undefinable sound that Alt-J has perfected.
Listen to: ‘Dissolve Me’, ‘Tessellate’, ‘Blood Flood’