I honestly do not know where to start. It all seems to have happened at the speed of light – when Alt-J first posted their 4-track demo set on Soundcloud to appearing on French TV. They also dropped their debut LP An Awesome Wave earlier than expected, and had it uploaded on their Soundcloud account for all, with comments on every track’s inspirations, making-of’s etc. The track-by-track remarks enriched the whole listening experience, giving the listeners another insight to the tracks than their own.
An Awesome Wave has many instrumental interludes between tracks and Intro, which opens the album definitely creates a high expectation in the listeners. The piano break before the lyrical part of the song begins is my favourite. Alt-J are just so good at creating breaks, another great example is the one in Fitzpleasure. Making Intro (originally titled Nod To The Canon) as the album opener is quite a bold move in my opinion, as it is quite different from the rest of the tracks.
The first interlude a.k.a. Ripe & Ruin is an acappella that features a simple and mathematical narrative, and joins together Intro and Tessellate. Tessellate is the track that got me in love with Alt-J. Its uniqueness blew me away and the weird vocals of Joe mesmerised me. It is great how Alt-J pretty much retained the demo’s sound, and the track still sends shivers down my spine despite many listens over time. The ‘triangular love’ that is mentioned in the song also echoes well with their band name ‘∆’ and their previous statuses as art students.
Following the rather dark-sounding Tessellate, Breezeblock is like a fresh breeze and break from the tracks before. Breezeblock’s intensity changes alongside the lyrics’ story. It is followed by a short and calming interlude Guitar. After this break, the spotlight is on again on Something Good. The percussion on Something Good gives the track a slight splash of Latin sound. Despite the rather chilled façade, Something Good is in fact about the mending of a broken heart. Though melody-wise, it is sure some good summer/ autumn listen.
Dissolve Me made me think of tropical rainforests the moment I listen to it. The jingle and percussion may have contributed to that exotic feeling. Matilda was a confusing track before the release of An Awesome Wave, as I thought the Matilda was Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Turns out it’s quite a different story – basing on the film Léon, hence where the much repeated line ‘This is from, this is from Matilda’ comes from.
Ms marks another intermission, the softened guitar strumming, acappella moments with the laid-back bass and snare drum beats together sound incredibly soothing, unlike Fitzpleasure. I love Fitzpleasure. When it first came out as a single with Matilda, I doubted whether it was really by Alt-J, as it sounds incredibly different from the rest of the tracks they had released. There is a brilliant break in the beginning of the track, with a meaty bass section, energetic percussion that creates much of the movement in Fitzpleasure. It is a very promising track from Alt-J from their already very rich and awe-inspiring catalogue.
The last instrumental interlude Piano cleans up the agitation from Fitzpleasure and bridges the listeners’ towards the last 3 tracks on the album. An interesting opening to Bloodflood which features school children greetings. It is also the track from which the album title was taken. The track may sound rather mild, but once you listen till the end, one can surely feel the rush of blood to the heart as chant is made clearer and louder.
I didn’t really have much to say about TaroHand-Made is simplistic, with its guitar and bass providing the instrumental backbone, it balances the album perfectly.
On a whole, An Awesome Wave is an exceptional debut that sees Alt-J their prominent future. It features clever song-writing and instruments, resulting in delightful outcome, that is, An Awesome Wave.