[The Audiofiles] Alt-J: Changing the Game

In the current state of the music industry – genres are merging, producers across the board are collaborating and the end result is a smorgasborg of music that simply put moves the feet and soothes the soul. Guitar riffs layered over gritty, emotive lyrics; basslines pulsing in time with your heart beat; ethereal melodies dichotomized by dissonant chords and tense moments dispelled by eerie moments of quiet.  Partly thanks to advances in modern technology like streaming media, though in part also due to piracy problems, today’s music makers are sitting on an epoch of music history; commercial ‘pop’ music is as readily available as what the rest of us consider ‘underground’ tech house, trap, glitch, minimal and all of those other nuanced sub-genres that might or might not actually exist anywhere beyond our minds.

Musicians are compounded, creative beings, constantly evolving from generations and artists before them.  Unknowingly or in tribute, time and time again artists sonically ingrain their surroundings into their source material – only to remix, rework, regurgitate, and revolve the cycle of the arts once more.

It was a typical Tuesday morning – scouring Soundcloud and hunting through Hypem.  Lido’s remix of ‘Left Hand High’ came through my feed and I was instantly hooked. Repeat Button. Within moments, I was having a one person dance party in my living room, grooving to the deliciously layered drops and almost ethereal vocals. Twenty minutes later, I emerged from a trancelike haze – instantly yearning for more.  Instead of doing the typical – researching the remixer, I pulled back a layer to find Alt-J.

Though Alt-J(∆)’s been around for the better part of the last decade, they’ve only been releasing music for since 2012 and I didn’t discover them until literally a week ago. A triumvirate of creativity, Alt-J is constantly pushing back on the boundaries in the most beautiful way.  In the Venn Diagram of Alternative Rock, Indie Electro and Hip-Hop Syncopation, Alt-J sits proudly front and center. Diving further into their discography, I’ve come to a unique conclusion – I almost don’t like any remixes of their work.  And why would I? Did the Mona Lisa need a Lo-Fi filter? Great work needs no retouching, and almost every remix I’ve heard seems like a building block of their intricate design – not an homage to their work or a complex re-imagining of their harmonies.

If you don’t believe me, try this on for size: after logging at least 100 listens to ‘Left Hand High’ (and no, I’m not kidding), I matriculated on to Story 4: Sleeplessly Embracing. So, for a second – take all I knew of Alt-J. I’ve heard Tessilate and Breezeblock on the radio, and then all a sudden – a glitching, booming bassline takes over – grimy, street smart lyrics overflow my headphones as the bass fills my body.  Combine that all into one compact musical package, and what you have borders on genius.

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