Alt- J’s eccentricity has elevated to new heights.
Alt-J kicked off their UK tour this week, and their first stop was Brighton (lucky us!). For those who have been living under a rock for the past few years and haven’t heard of Alt-J, the Leeds-based indie band shot to fame in 2012 with their debut An Awesome Wave, gaining them a British Mercury Prize and some solid salutes in the music world.
With the anticipated release of their third album Relaxer, the trio have ramped up their precision. Opening in complete darkness and hearing excitement rattle through the crowd like the wind through an empty carcass, Alt-J had their worshiping fans gripped with the subtleness of a light switch, and then the lights come on and illuminate the venue.
Alt-J have come along way since playing gigs in their living room, and they spare no expense (or lightbulbs) through the whole set; the hallucinogenic visual creativity exalted their level of progression – this is not just a live band, they are a musical experience. The opening track 3WW unfolds. Hollow rhythmic harmonies bleeding out the line “I just want to love you in my own language” and with samples of the group’s girlfriends entwined in this romanticism piece (which contrasts the unsettling cover art of what appears to be a bloodied murder victim).
With only eight songs coming in at 39 minutes, Relaxer is the band’s shortest album yet, but the live performance pours in old beloveds including sing-along standard Matilda, which remains Alt-J’s biggest draw; it was enjoyable to see much of the band’s newer material. Joe Newman leads the fans through the band’s fusion of genres, creating a very modern wall of sound. Newman’s nasally yet affective tone, teamed with the falsetto of Gus Unger-Hamilton, meant every track was performed with precision and conviction.
The tension was rebuilt through Every Other Freckle, with the audience chanting the words “devour me”. The room was fully consumed by this trio and implicitly devoured, and left wanting more, and more is what they got. Closing with a crowd pleasing soundcrash of firm favorites, Alt- J are back.
Essential Tracks: In Cold Blood, Deadcrush, and Adeline
Images courtesy of Ian Cheek Press