Review by Bill Adamson
I must confess that while I recognise that technically Alt-J are a very good band; their 2012 album ‘An Awesome Wave’ won the Mercury Music prize and an Ivor Novello award. I totally get their appeal, but they have always left me a little cold. If they were ever appearing at a festival I was attending I would wander off and find someone else to watch. However their new album ‘Reduxer’ has totally won me over. It is like trip hop for the 21st Century, the musical genealogy on ‘Reduxer’ I believe can be traced back to Portishead, Tricky and Massive Attack in the 1990s. Many songs featuring guest appearances; Danny Brown, Tuka and Pusha T to name just a few.
Essentially ‘Reduxer’ is a kind of remix album, although a complete reimagining of the tracks from last years ‘Relaxer’ is a more accurate description. There are many stand out tracks the number chants with treated vocals on the first showing of “In Cold Blood” are hypnotic and haunting and Pusha T is on top form here. There is a further outing for “In Cold Blood” featuring Kontra K and what I think is German rapping. I wished that I spoke and understood more than just English, because this sounds like it would be quite interesting.
A cover version for me should be vastly different from the original and Alt-J’s take on “House Of The Rising Sun” is much less of a cover and more of a story of that classic song. There is even a line in the lyrics, “party with the animals”, that hints at a throwback to the Animals who topped the chart with the song in the 60s. The story is effectively about an abusive father and husband. The ethereal backing perfectly suits the intense emotion and anger in Tuka’s stunning delivery. There are also two versions of “Hit Me Like That Snare” here; the Jimi Charles Moody version and another featuring Rejjie Snow. The first one retains a strong trip hop influence while the Rejjie Snow take on it moves it to a different level completely with shades of 70s soul funk, 80s electronic and classy, stylish hip hop.
The legendary remixes of Everything But The Girl resonate throughout “Last Year” but with extra added and clever rap I’m not quite sure why but to me but a few of the tracks on ‘Reduxer’ come across as a little spooky when listened to on headphones in a darkened room. Alt-J have been around since meeting and forming in 2007 at Leeds University and I reckon they will be around for a long while to come. I really hope that they do more of this kind of fusion with hip hop. This may not be a perfect album but it is a damned good one!