Meet Alt-J, Also Known As ∆

The U.K. invasion continues! Enter ∆ (Alt-J) and their debut album, An Awesome Wave, a refreshingly original blend of musical styles, from reggae all the way to dubstep, that mix to create something genre-defying and wholly symbiotic. In case you were wondering, their name actually refers to the little triangle (∆) that appears when the keys ‘alt’ and ‘j’ are pressed at the same time on a Macintosh computer… Yep, really. They’ve been compared to everyone from Yeasayer to Coldplay. In my opinion they sound like LCD Soundsystem, Pretty Lights, and Arctic Monkeys got together with Toots and the Maytals to make a reggae album (or their closest approximation). Their sound is that difficult to categorize.

The four-piece met while attending Leeds University and played together for a solid two years under the name FILMS before signing any record deals – and it shows!

Check out their video for the track Breezeblocks. I would have you draw your own conclusion from the music video, which is heart-rending and stunning in it’s own right.

Coming quite literally out of nowhere, they were nominated for the U.K.’s coveted Barclaycard Mercury Prize for “Album of the Year” after releasing An Awesome Wave.

For a band whose album was released in May of last year with little or no international promotion, they’ve certainly drawn the attention of the global music trade. Nearly every song on their album has a high definition music video.

The song Fitzpleasure serves as a good example of the broad reach in their music. The verse has a beat that is almost dubstep/techno when suddenly the chorus slows to be closer to a pop song, only to drop right back into the chorus’ dirty distorted bass beat. The effect is haunting yet energizing. The video is another beast entirely, and only goes to show that they have a clear vision for where they want to go with their music and their fearlessness in creating art.

Yet another song, Tessellate, shows their ability to draw on the emotion of the listener.

Everyone has their own take on what this song means, yet when listening to the lyrics I drew a conclusion that some will agree with. Tessellate means to create a two dimensional plane via the repetition of geometric shapes, without any gaps or overlaps. A specific lyric in the song really struck me as beautiful;

“Triangles are my favorite shape.

Three points where two lines meet.

Toe to toe, back to back, let’s go.

My love it’s very late.

‘Til morning comes, let’s tessellate.”

To me, it speaks to human nature and the fact that, either through family or love or sex, we are all connected in a way and that the human race tessellates across the planet in a quilt of interaction. It’s hard to tell for sure if Alt-J is will be around for decades or if they’re going to be another one-time music industry fad, but I would be willing to bet that you will be seeing a lot of this band in the future.

 

Written by Matthew Nason, a Journalism/Telecommunications student at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

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