There a lot of bands that get saddled with the “next Radiohead” tag, and doubly so if those bands happen to be British. The group Alt-J have found themselves treading these kinds of treacherous critical waters, but given their inventive sound, they might be able to escape from the comparisons.
That’s because their debut album–this year’s An Awesome Wave–is swiftly capturing fans on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s been nominated for, and is likely to win, Britain’s coveted Mercury Prize, akin to our Grammy for album of the year. Fans and critics alike have been blown away by Alt-J’s mixture of R&B, electronic, and indie, as well as lead singer Joe Newman’s captivating voice.
Not bad for a quartet of twentysomethings, all of whom met at Leeds University a few years back. After moving to Cambridge, the group quickly signed a record deal and set about capturing their unique sound. The name? “Alt-J” is the Apple shortcut used to produce the Greek letter delta (∆), which guitarist Gwil Sainsbury notes is used in math as a symbol for change.
It’s fitting then that their music sounds like it’s in perpetual motion. Recently, the quartet stopped by KUT’s Studio 1A the weekend of their Austin City Limits Music Festival performance and played a soulful version of “Tessellate,” today’s song of the day. Tessallation itself is the creation of a plane through the same geometric shape (think a honeycomb or M.C. Escher drawing), but you don’t need to have a math degree to figure out that Alt-J are the real deal.