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Alternative & Indie - Released September 22, 2014 | Infectious

Hi-Res Distinctions Qobuzissime
The 2012 Mercury Prize winners begin their sophomore outing with the subversively titled "Intro," a four-and-a-half-minute highlight reel of what's to come that pairs the monastic chanting that prefaced An Awesome Wave's first single, "Fitzpleasure," with a pastiche of new age and worldbeat-blasted ambient pop that suggests Mogwai by way of Peter Gabriel's Real World studios circa 1990 -- it's both planetarium laser light show and art installation ready. The muted yet equally heady "Arrival in Nara," all fingerpicked electric guitar and diffusive synths, and its more muscular yet no less monkish second half, "Nara," do little to rein in the holistic atmosphere that's so decisively laid out in the remarkably potent This Is All Yours' opening moments, which makes the arrival of the punchy, carnally minded "Every Other Freckle" and the meaty, Anglo-Motown thump of "Left Hand Free" so thrilling, but hardly unexpected. After all, this is a band that proved with its debut that it can go from icy, distant, and often excruciatingly beautiful to downright feral at the crack of a snare drum (or pots and pans, as the group's humble, dorm room beginnings often required), and This Is All Yours does little to tarnish their reputation as choirboys with dark passengers. That penchant for edgy refinement, along with frontman Joe Newman's elastic voice, remains the band's most effective weapon, but it's hard to pinpoint where and when that magic occurs, as it's so effortlessly woven into the group's sound. It's somewhere in between the autumnal and apocalyptic, Miley Cyrus-sampling "Hunger of the Pine," the bucolic, recorder-led "Garden of England," and the oddly soulful, midnight-black posturing of "The Gospel of John Hurt," and it gets under your skin, where it somehow manages to both hurt and heal. ~ James Christopher Monger

Alternative & Indie - Released June 2, 2017 | Infectious

Three years after This Is All Yours, Alt-J are out to take listeners for another joyride. Still defying labels and pigeonholes, the Leeds group has written Relaxer as a disorienting stylistic patchwork. As ever with Alt-J, you could say that their third album is often pop, sometimes folk (Last Year) or raw rock (Hit Me Like That Snare), occasionally electro, or even lyrical (Pleader), sometimes stripped-down, but also very much built around the voice of singer Joe Newman, and you still wouldn't get close to explaining it… And then there is this totally freakish cover of House Of The Rising Sun which is only recognisable from the lyrics, Alt-J having completely changed the melody… In short, like their countrymen Radiohead or, on the other side of the Atlantic, Animal Collective, Alt-J are on the march against business as usual, wrong-footing the world of pop at every turn. That's a hallmark that's perhaps clearer than ever on Relaxer… Finally, the cover art is a good guide as to what to expect: a still from LSD : Dream Simulator, a PlayStation game from 1998, which was pretty zany, with no real goal or mission, and populated by headless women, multicoloured giant plants and heads on legs. It was like a virtual LSD trip… © CM/Qobuz