RT: “Tessellate”, “Breezeblocks”, “Fitzpleasure”
RiYL: James Blake, Zulu Winter, At times can be a little like tUnE-yArDs, like being dropped in a super soulful ocean.
Alt-J’s first full length album, An Awesome Wave, is a good place to start for the relatively new British band. The album is actually finding some chart success in England, which is pretty crazy considering that their first demos started on Garage Band not too long ago.
An Awesome Wave is a very sonically interesting album. The textures in it are very palpable and intriguing to experience–for example, the smashing of keys on a toy piano in the song “Breezeblocks” or the glitchy guitar stings and pianos in “Tesselate.” The soulful vocals sometimes float through the songs like wisps of smoke slipping through your grip (“Estocada”); other times they sound inhuman, standing steadfast and even abrasive (“Fitzpleasure”). Each song shines in its own distinct way, some smothering quietly in the background and some very up front and border-line aggressive. More than that, the album is composed expertly, the middle of the album hosts the quietest songs, but the songs are sandwiched in between some of the hardest hitting songs. There are even interlude songs that add drastically to the album; usually I get the strong urge to skip them. The interludes in this album almost act like pallet cleansers in a meal that get you ready for the next course. The way “Interlude 1” flows perfectly into “Tesselate” is such a perfect example of this. There’s no doubt that this band has truck fulls of talent listening to the sophisticated interludes scattered through the album.
That being said, there is a hit or miss aspect to the middle chunk of songs. “Ms” has these odd stops that kind of stunt the flowing growth of the section. “Dissolve Me” has this synth part reminiscent to Matt and Kim’s “Sidewalks” album, which really doesn’t work for their sophisticated and layered sound. Also, the “breathe in; exhale” part of “Blood Flood” feels a little gimmicky to me. Even then, these songs each have aspects that make them worth listening to.
An Awesome Wave really is an experience very similar to watching a movie or reading a book. There is an exposition, a rising action, a climax, and a falling action. This is something that I look for but rarely see in an album. Some songs envelop the listener in layers of sound, while others grip the soul with their sparse melodies and instrumentation. In the end, An Awesome Wave is a great experience and a really fun, rewarding listen. If you can, listen to it with headphones; it will make the album a lot more interesting.