Band in Focus: Alt-J

The immersive power of music, movies & books is just fascinating. Or as a matter of fact, any good art clouts you in to a state of complete absorption & your attention reaches its peak. And so is the authority of story-telling that carries our souls to different realities. Just like psychedelic trips, good cinematic & musical stories diminish our ego & dissolve our sense of self-awareness to reach a state where all the joys, highs & ecstasies are found. Blissful awareness! Or better call it ‘Deictic Shift’!

Such is the power of the impalpable musical musings of a new-age rock band called ‘Δ’. Wait a minute, is that a name? Or a symbol? Or a word? Well, it’s a keyboard shortcut on a Mac for Delta when you press “Alt-J”. So better call them ‘Alt-J’!


Their music ricochets across different genres; alternate indie rock with a variety of ethereal electronic sounds, cappella harmonies, piercing nasal falsetto vocal filters, bouncy tones, quirky piano, abrasive guitar tunes,  all add up to produce unique psychedelic melodies & tunefulness.And they just win the hearts as the tuneful melodies of each song submerge into a really powerful backdrop story! Some call their music indie rock, some folk rock, some folk-step! But let’s better call this ‘program music’ or ‘tone painting’!

Another brilliant aspect of this band is that they dig out dazzlingly deep trips! Their most famous number ‘Fitzpleasure’ is influenced from a controversial 1964 novel called ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’. The fourth story in the book is of a prostitute named ‘Tralala’ who was brutally gang-raped involving a broom. Her name also appears as a prominent lyric in the song. The song is a frenetic take or composition as an incitement on the horridly dark & disturbing story. But more interesting is the black & white video of this song which takes us in to a completely different trip altogether. The clips consist of gangsters & random people with twisted & abnormal body parts probably showcasing that we humans are for sure capable of crazy inhumane things. So in all, three different trips are incited by the song. The book & Tralala’s story is one dimension of the trip, Alt-J’s lyrical & musical take on that is another & the video is another far-fetched trip altogether. The tongue for an eye, prosthetic limbs & the old man with two heads are all as absurd & callous depiction of humanness as it can get. Turn on the volume & your attention level for the video below:

Another song I wish to discuss here is ‘Breezeblocks’, primarily because of the eccentrically detailed & intense video. The video is basically a brutal fight between two lovers shown in reverse. It begins with the female character lying dead & the male character panting over what he did to her out of momentary rage! This is easily one of the best music videos ever made & it’s amazing how it makes you wait for the beginning of the story, as in what started the fight in the first place! As it proceeds backwards, we encounter new links & find another female character hidden by the fighting female while she attacks the male character with knife! And it all becomes too detailed & too intense to understand in one watch! Give it multiple views& I bet every time you will find a detail that you missed earlier(as if you’re watching Pulp Fiction :D). And that will totally incite a new perspective to the whole video story which is effectively an awe-inspiring short film.

Tripped Out Fact: The song ‘Breezeblocks’ in inspired by the band’s love for the book “Where The Wild Things Are”. It is a powerful lyrical/tone painting of deep love as portrayed in the book where one would even threaten of cannibalism to have that person he loves! Just check out in the video below how powerfully these lines are used:  “Please don’t go, I’ll eat you whole, I love you so”

There are several other sources of inspiration that Alt-J has used in their songs, from movies to books to real life incidents. These include songs that draw inspiration from movies, books and real life incidents as well. Some prominent examples include Bloodflood (nod to the movie “American Psycho”), Matilda (nod to the movie “Leon: The Professional) and Taro (Nod to the war photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro).

Be sure to tune into the experience that is Alt-J, sublime yet intense at the same time.

Further Tripping…

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About Hardeep Pathak

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One comment

  1. These guys are awesome! taro and nara are my personal favorites.
    A well written article. 🙂

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