Live Review

Alt J, The Garage, London

They have a rare quality: they may as well be singing in Mongolian – and the crowd wouldn’t give a damn.

Alt J derive their name from the phenomenon that occurs when you type ‘Alt + J’ on an apple keyboard – the appearance of a neat little triangle ∆, otherwise known as a ‘delta’. On discovering this, I will confess, I felt an impulse to rip apart the poor innocent Jalapeno Chili plant sitting on my desk, and on overcoming this violent urge I was left with nothing but a scrap of hope that the music would transcend Alt J’s rather crummy name. Indeed, if Alt J had sucked, you would probably not be reading a review, but a newspaper report of a certain DIY reviewer’s angered rampage across Islington.

Luckily, you the reader are spared this, as we fast forward to the gig. It’s a cold December night, and The Garage is proving a popular venue of refuge. The trendy types of east London have packed the place out, presumably in part to spare their regimentally exposed ankles from the biting chill, but also to get a good look at Alt J. “I think this is officially the biggest crowd we’ve ever played to.. so.. uh.. thanks!” says the singer, with more than a hint of pleasant surprise, as mucky synth and purple smoke fills the room. Without a warning the band launch into demo ‘Breezeblocks’, which evolves into wonderful mix of ritualistic yelping and thudding witch-house beats. Instantly there is an excitable buzz in the room. Onto ‘Matilda’ with it’s intricately picked out guitar and yet more maths-rock beats, and its obvious Alt J are more than just an attention-grabbing name. They have a rare quality, they may as well be singing in Mongolian – and the crowd wouldn’t give a damn. The singer’s range stands out live even more so than it does on recorded demos – he has a fantastic voice. The mix is so rich that lyrically, at least, Alt J are uncomplicated. The focus is very much on weaving countless melodies into the whole effect – which is captivating.

As the night ends, the punters don fur jackets and venture back out into the bitter night with a new sense of resolve “Weren’t Alt J bloody great!!?” a girl hollers, hurling her bottle top triumphantly onto the pavement for emphasis and startling several bemused locals. In this case, her opinion is a spot on summary of the night. Alt J might trigger various assumptions but with an impressive rooster of demos and an ability to please a mixed crowd whilst coming across as modest and genuine, they won’t have to play second fiddle for much longer.

Tags: alt-J, Features

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