Rating: 4/5, ‘…what could have felt like a jumble of remixes thrown into a pot has instead got the feel of a well-executed experimental album.’
British indie rockers Alt-J have announced the release of their new album ‘Reduxer’ on the 28th September. I was lucky to be given early access to this album to review before the release date.
‘Relaxer’ was the band’s third full-length studio album, released June 2017. After the award-winning success and second Mercury Prize nomination of the album, ‘Reduxer’ interweaves lead vocalist Joe Newman’s calming, melodic voice against the rough, hard-hitting lyrics and production styles of multiple hip-hop artists currently at the forefront of their genre. The result is an unexpected combination of talents from contrasting areas of music that provides a biting experience for the listener, drawing on varying sounds from around the globe.
Alt-J’s affiliation with hip-hop may come as a surprise to some, given the generally soothing, delicate nature in tracks such as ‘Adeline’ and ‘Matilda’ which they mix with slightly more up-tempo rock in their classic ‘Breezeblocks’ and ‘In Cold Blood’. However, the band reveals that “it’s no secret that we love and are influenced by hip-hop, and it’s always been a dream of ours to work with hip-hop artists in reimagining our music. With REDUXER that dream has come true… this album is truly global, featuring rappers and producers from all over the world.”
What really gives the album its edge is the sense of being unpinned to a specific genre as there as so many different influences within it. While the album is heavily influenced by hip-hop, jazz and soul hints are felt in spots including ‘Hit Me Like That Snare’. Reduxer spans different cultures through language. ‘Cold Blood’ inherits lyrics from German rapper Kontra K’s works, and French rapper Lomepal is involved in the ‘3WW’ remix. The album even features Puerta Rican PJ Sin Suela laying lyrics in Spanish in the track ‘Pleader’.
Highlights include the opening remix of ‘3WW’ featuring Little Simz, a majorly up-and-coming hip-hop artist who has received acclaim from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Dizzee Rascal and Zane Lowe. Her inviting yet self-analytical delivery makes for hard hearing on first listen, featuring many metaphors over the originally beautiful romantic ballad from the band. You can immediately feel the artist’s talents brew within the song, but it takes time and few listens to fully understand and start feeling the track which deliberately puts the listener on edge.
The second track of the album is a real pusher. Pusha T’s obvious and deserved bravado rolls over the band’s ‘In Cold Blood’ riff brilliantly, following the back of a summer in which the rapper took on and defeated Drake in a war of words, arguably currently the biggest artist worldwide. A Daft Punk-esque electronic hook provides the track with a futuristic but strangely endearing backing to Newman’s wavering vocals folded into Pusha’s bumping flow.
While the album may be hard to stomach for hardcore Indie Rock fans expecting more of the same, it shows the band’s willingness to explore their music tastes despite the possible backlash they may receive. What could have felt like a jumble of remixes thrown into a pot has instead got the feel of a well-executed experimental album. I have no doubt this will be followed by a more classic-feeling Alt-J release, but until then this album will serve nicely.
By Fin Hardie