You walk into a light-filled corridor stretching between rows and rows of red velvet-covered pews. The musky smell of old hymnbooks and dust under rugs is saturating your nostrils. The air is so still that the shuffling of your feet and rustling of your clothes are a shattering noise against the silence. You take a seat, on the left, third row from the front, and exhale. Four young men step out onto the chancel and it begins.
Though we aren't really at Mass, this might be the closest to a church-going experience we’ve had in recent history, and it’s the UK band, alt-J (∆), we have to thank. The four-piece delivered us their version of a holy spirit, while we drank our own, last Tuesday at the Echo. Their Gregorian chant-ballad, “Ripe & Ruin”, transported us to the church of the semi-monastic dwellings it was created in: a dark and damp basement in Cambridge. An Awesome Wave, their debut album, doesn’t come out in the US until September 18th, but that didn’t stop every person in the room from singing along.
We’re not proposing that the four-piece is a come-to-Jesus calling. Nor are they holed-up in robes singing hymns and seeking followers. But as for the latter, they’ve really racked them in so far. From the moment doors opened, there was a steady stream of bodies and the pre-chatter rose to a palpable chorus. All chiming bells aside, their music is a healthy conglomeration of genres, expertly interwoven. The track “Fitzpleasure” mixed delicate tra-la-la’s before diving into dub-step breakdown over-laid with Radiohead-esque guitar picking. They even depart from the electro-organ ambiance to give us Bollywood-rock, dance jams like “Dissolve.”
Through these overlapping styles, Joe Newman’s vocals guide us. On each tangent and around every bend, at times bouncing like RnB and sweet with folk harmonies. alt-J has captured hearts and ears, all by word of mouth. So consider this your official recommendation: take a listen to An Awesome Wave, with or without your Sunday best.
Written By Alexis Sophie Kozak