Review Summary: Believe the Hype, An Awesome Wave is a truly unique debut.
Creating something fresh in music today is becoming increasingly more difficult; creating fresh sounds gel into a cohesive product, which is both suitably alternative to gain kudos and universal appeal appears to be an insurmountable challenge. Alt-j, emerged from the dreary darkness of the UK winter of 2012 with a short but remarkable EP; press cuttings revealing masked faces combined with the much referred to Apple command motif gained sufficient attention to garner some pre album hype.
I purchased An Awesome Wave immediately after its release, hopeful that the paradoxical combination of busy/clean sounds of their EP would translate successfully on a wider canvas. First impressions were of uncertainty, but it soon developed into something of a masterpiece. Art Rock, trance-folk, jump-folk call it what you will this in an unashamedly ground breaking album. The lead single, Breezeblocks needs no introduction, building from simple couplet rhymes into a warbling crescendo of synthesizers coupled with a warped love cry from singer Newman, “Please don’t go, I’ll eat you whole, I love you so”, only to revert back to the relaxed ambient sounds of Interlude 2. The record seems to be the antithesis of today’s popular recorded music, managing to sound radically different to anything else put on vinyl, while remaining starkly clean and simple, an concept which is initiated right from the opening track.
There is a somewhat simple, almost childlike atmosphere created by many of the tracks, Ripe & Ruin, Blood Flood and Matilda displaying an astutely formal feel which acts as both refreshing and innovative in their approach. Estocada, wallows in the trade-mark sound of the band, while Fitzpleasure’s combination of trance like chanting and dirty synth lines managing to combine a book-worm nerdishness with bang up to date electronic soundscapes. The last track Taro truly highlights the bands confidence, eastern rhythms blend seamlessly into surf guitar riffs producing a blissfully mystical aura to finish off the album.
An Awesome Wave is something of an anomaly today; it manages to be both refreshingly different and bohemian, while not pushing the boundaries to such an extent it remains another niche experimental product, which only a small audience will ever experience. It has something of a universal appeal amongst music aficionados and casual listeners alike, an outstanding achievement in an ever-fussy listening audience.