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.