Album Review – Alt-J REDUXER

What is happening?

It is my first thought when I open the new Alt-J project REDUXER. Expecting the indie transcendence that has come to typify Alt-J my brain was immediately bombarded by in your face urban tinged explosion, an intoxicating mixture of genre splicing that literally stops my breath. A reinterpretation of previous album RELAXER, REDUXER is experimental in the best way, a brilliant landscape of competing sounds that slam together creating a harmonious concoction of sound.

Fans of Alt-J have been getting glimpses of this new foray into sound through Alt-J’s social media. Like any band that dramatically shifts their sound the social media snippets have proved polarizing, loved by some but hated by others.  But any good art historian will tell you that progressive art is just that, polarizing and thought producing, propelling both love and hate.

With REDUXER Alt-J have compiled a myriad of sound and texture, curating rich songs that compile into a masterfully charged album.

The album opens with ‘3WW’ ft Little Simz. A clear introduction to the new mixture of sound the tune opens with a Little Simz laying down a handful of verses. The quick paced rap is a juxtaposition to the undercurrent of indie, this new compilation of genres that come to typify the album. Like a narrator introducing a great piece of work there is a sense of ethereal exploration and anticipation in the song, a true demarcation of the journey to come.

In a perhaps strange twist of fate ‘3WW’ does not just appear a single time, but the track is actually duplicated on the album. Alt-J in fact duplicates three tracks, ‘3WW,’ ‘In Cold Blood,’ and ‘Hit Me Like That.’ Featuring different sets of co-creators the replication shows the versatility of the tracks and the expanse of creativity that comes along with music.

The second ‘3WW’ features Paris based rapper Lomepal. While my personal lack of French skills creates a mystery to the lyrical content, the song retains this cinematic adventure feel. ‘In Cold Blood’ first features Twin Shadows and Pusha T, later followed by German artist Kontra K. Each remix balances the heaviness and ferocity of rap-tinged structure with the meditative ambience of indie sound; a mingling that could produce a schizophrenic fiasco is done with such tenderness and care that it feels rather like a perfect intermingling rather than a messy compilation. ‘Hit Me Like that Snare’ is the last tune to find a double entry. Jimi Charles Moody finds his way to the first track, a distorted bluesy rock funk he gives the song a little attitude and edge while second collaborator Rejjie Snow brings a California 60s cool to the song, despite being Irish.

Cascading between the duplicates are a handful of other songs that, like the others, mix in bits of rap, rock and indie alternative. ‘Deadrcush’ brings the typical Alt-J lyrical content but alters the song, bringing a futuristic electronically tinged urban rock vibe. ‘Adeline’ brings with it a triad of creators, ADP, Hex and Paigey Cakey bringing texture with digitized vocals alongside liquid instrumentals. Rock edged ‘Last Year’ features Terrace Martin and Goldlink has an understated and breathy vibe, a lighter touch to the heavyset album. A true departure from their usual sound Alt-J combines finally with Trooko and PJ Sin Suela to produce ‘Pleader.’ Trooko bringing his dance electronic vibes combines with Puerto Rico’s PJ Sin Suela, a captivating force that collides into Alt-J ultimately yielding a haunting and hypnotic trance.

While the entirety of the album is brilliant the standout tune has to be the rendition of ‘House of the Rising Sun.’ Many artists would have some trepidations reconstructing such a classic, and yet Alt-J and Tuka create a humanistic emotional piece that is transformative! Tuka opens the track bringing a sense of depth and vulnerability with his hauntingly somber verses. Alt-J follows, a distorted bass and drawn out vocals continues a tremendously poignant and evocative rendition of the classic. Is it sacrilegious to like this version more than the original? The answer to that is probably a resounding “yes” and yet this version displays a type of depth that is unavoidably capturing. Placed within the first handful of songs the tune is transformative and continues to reassert the immense ability to be creative without borders, a constant ideology that permeates each and every piece of REDUXER.

REDUXER will certainly be an album that is discussed at great lengths, like any piece of art that is new and transformative the atypical sound will conjure a myriad of thoughts and attitudes, like any genius piece of art it will spur debate and discussion. While I’m personally stunned by the immense creativity and splendour that seeps through every chord those looking to keep Alt-J in their genre specified box might be a bit discombobulated.

However with that it mind it is in my opinion irrefutable that REDUXER by Alt-J is a groundbreaking album that shows the transparency and transcendent possibilities of music when placed outside of contrived genre specified structures. Constructing a vivid and vivacious tapestry, REDUXER is purely and simply a masterpiece, a creation that is expansive and brilliant. Dropping in late September the album is out for pre-order with a handful of UK spots added to Alt-J’s October tour.

Reviewer: Kylie McCormick

Images courtesy of PR.

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