My New Favourite Band: Alt-J (∆)

Try pressing alt j on an Apple keyboad, I’ll do it now: ∆

This is the name of a stunning new band from one of two knowledge capitals in the UK, Cambridge. Well at least that’s what their Soundcloud page says. Perhaps just one band member was born there, since the quartet actually first met at Leeds University whilst studying fine art. After spending the last two years studying and rehearsing in the basement of a tiny terraced house, they signed to Infectious Records in November 2011.

I’d just heard ‘Matilda’ on BBC 6 Music, and sat up straight, which hasn’t happened a lot since 2012 started. There are three imperative elements to music which provide the listener with interest; rhythm, melody and harmony. Almost all “successful” (i.e where the artist doesn’t need another job to make a living) music employ these to some extent, which is why the often mindless descriptor “boring” for a band or track gets right on my nelly. Obviously if one of these things is clearly missing, then fair enough.

However with their first single of 2012, the ideally coupled ‘Matilda’ and ‘Fitzpleasure’ confirms Alt-J (∆) are a band almost overly conscious of all these things far more than most “successful musicians” are, but they’re also very careful not to head o.t.t. It’s a real game of necessity, born from a knack for fine art.

‘Fitzpleasure’ is particularly striking, and I can’t really recognise a real structure. It’s only 3 and a half minutes long, but feels like a 7 minute monster. What a thumping fuzz-buzz bassline, honestly. It’s literally got everything stuffed in, and couldn’t hit me with more if it tried.

The more sombre singalong ‘Matilda’ almost appears to utilise a similar beat, for a far more subdued sort of folk-focused song, and it still works brilliantly. As I mentioned above, yet again the melody here is perfect, the chords are harmonically varied, and the rhythm makes me want to groove along all day.

The guys will be on tour throughout February and March supporting Ghostpoet and Wild Beasts, respectively. Go and see them for god’s sake.



-James Godwin, January 29th, 2012

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