?, otherwise known as Alt J, is the newly celebrated Alternative male quartet, who met as students at Leeds University in 2007, and combined in their apparent mutual appreciation for Triangle’s, Radiohead, and bad films.
Their name, the Delta sign, and a product of what happens when you hold down the Alt and J button on your keyboard, is both original and mysterious. As front man Joe Newman explains in piano tickler Tessellate; “Triangles are my favourite shape, three points where two lines meet” this may subconsciously sum up the whole thesis surrounding the band, and their musical stand point. Their debut album draws influence from many musical directions, and moulds them together to create a product of such dynamic range, with songs shifting from hip hop beats, to vocal falsettos that scream Thom Yorke, to guitar strums throwing a half hearted nod to Folk music.
Their album, An Awesome Wave, released on the 25th June invites the listener in with the beautifully evoking, and aptly named Intro that starts slowly with a haunting piano courted by gentle plucks from the guitar, and eventually erupts into a crescendo of drums, with Newman sprinkling throaty gargles in to the mix, creating a sound not dissimilar to The XX.
Three short interludes are included in this album, providing listeners with moments of contemplation, with the reassuring sound of the sea, and conversations gently tickling the background to a guitar solo, or soft accentuations of piano keys hand in hand with echoed howls.
Newman and his other band members Gwilym Sainsbury (Guitar), Gus Unger-Hamilton (Keyboard) and Thom Green (Drums) disapprove of being categorised in to a specific music genre, this is mirrored in the bands extensive use of variety. The angry guitar riffs in Fitzpleasure contrast beneath Newman’s playful tone as his chants create a tribal atmosphere, as their track Taro introduces a soundtrack reminiscent of India, with Bloodflood showcasing Green’s Bongo’s and betraying their already accredited success with their minimal approach to performing.
The band flirts with a collective passion for films, with their references to Crime Thriller Leon (M?tilda) and the fact that they were previously named FILMS before a confusion with Californian Punks The Films at Live at Leeds.
However we look at this band, the majority reaction is one of praise and excitement, and their hidden track Hand Made catapults Alt J into a league of their own.
Standout tracks: Breezeblocks. M?tilda
For Fans of: Thom Yorke, Foals, The XX
Written by: Charlotte Owen