The Yorkshire based indie rock band, alt-J, have always been associated with fidgety quirks and distracted arrangements which have served to not only allow the trio to amass a committed and ever-growing following, but has also to some extent held them back from really grasping a sense of identity; yet with the release of Relaxer, alt-J have found the perfect antidote for their case of a dwindling career.
Whilst in typical alt-J style we are faced with dubious enunciation and incoherent ramblings, the band still maintain this enigmatic trance-like countenance that have earned them such cult adoration up to now. Relaxer highlights alt-J as a band who have come to terms with their success and experience; fully taking advantage of their predictable yet necessary tropes that we have become accustomed to, whilst at the same time pushing the boat out much farther from the shores of 2012’s An Awesome Wave and 2014’s This Is All Yours. On Relaxer the trio have trimmed the flabby excess that dangles from previous albums in the forms of pretentious interludes and vain intros; and with this experience under their belt we have been presented with a much sharper and refined album, consisting only of eight songs that are emblematic of the heart and soul of alt-J.
Faithfully nerdy and unapologetically distinctive, the band continue to embrace the weird with a venture into a sinister and altogether rather troubling landscape. Six of the eight tracks on the album are accompanied with a 30-piece string section which adds a menacing and acute edge that has been lacking on the band’s previous work. Lead single ‘In Cold Blood’ is undercut with threatening guitar and the most intimidating ‘la, la, la’ you’ll ever hear, whilst lead singer Joe Newman treats us all to tales of horror and terrifying sexuality in ‘Hit Me Like That Snare’ with lines like “Leather slings fall like oxygen masks/ We’re going down, fuck my life in half.” Perversely enticing, the erratic but intriguing arrangement of Relaxer is something that could be seen as experimental, but when it comes to alt-J, peculiar is the norm. At times the album feels fragmented, with a stunted flow that makes the band’s third studio album anything but relaxing. That being said, reading the album as an accumulation of eight separate songs that are distinct in themselves is largely rewarding. Each song is a unique story that is to be experienced rather than passively enjoyed, filled with the most eventful music produced from the band so far, accentuated with indecipherable mumblings that have never sounded so poetic. Ultimately, Relaxer is perhaps one of the oddest albums to come from 2017, but it is also unmistakably one of the best.
Relaxer was released on June 2nd via Infectious Music