Alt-J's Debut Album: An Awesome Wave
By Ryan J. Beard
Sep 12, 2012 - 11:09:07 AM

CAMBRIDGE, UK—A new band from Cambridge is pushing the limits of alternative rock to the edge. With transient beats, folksy guitars, layered vocals, and unpredictable song structures, Alt-J’s debut album titled “An Awesome Wave” takes listeners to another world of music.


Alt-J, deriving its name from the delta symbol formed when pressing the alt key and the J key on a computer keyboard, formed at Leeds University in 2007. Guitarist and lead vocalist Joe Newman played bass player Gwil several of his own songs. Gwil was inspired to record and produce the songs in his dorm room using Garage Band. Soon after, Thom Green joined the band on drums, later on saying, “It was music I was looking for, I just didn’t know I was. I just loved it.” The band was completed when Gus Unger-Hamilton joined the band on keyboard.

The music the quartet produces is nearly impossible to compare to anything else. The band is somewhat reminiscent of Radiohead or Moby with a mixture of genres in their music. At certain points, Texas based instrumental band, Explosions in the Sky, comes to mind with a dreamy amnesiac sound; yet overall Alt-J is wading out into new waters. There are hints of folk with gentle picking on the guitar, dub step with heavily distorted bass and effects, and tribal or worldly influences with primal drumbeats and a sitar featured in the song “Taro.” Joe Newman’s lyrics are fascinating, abstract, beautiful and poetic; they deal with tragedy, love, fear, and death.


“An Awesome Wave” is so well rounded and produced, it’s difficult to believe it’s the band’s debut. Intro opens the album, with a simple piano soon building up with drums and a wailing guitar riff until it epically peaks when Joe Newman serenely draws your attention with rhythmic vocals over deep layered tracks. The song sets the tone for the remainder of the epic album. After a brief interlude, Tessellate continues the album with dissonant pianos, catchy beats and captivating lyrics. Ms will lull you gently into your dreams followed by the bass heavy song with primal drum beats titled Fitzpleasure. Bloodflood will drown you in a sea of meditative harmonies, transient drum beats, and enchanting guitars, then wash you up on nirvana’s shores. Each of the songs on “An Awesome Wave” are unique and extremely well crafted. The debut album will be available in the United States on September 18th.


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