Relaxer is alt-J’s third studio album since reforming their alternative rock band to frontman Joe Newman, keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton, and drummer Thom Sonny-Green.
Each song on the eight-track album seems well thought out with a story behind it. The latest single, ‘Adeline‘, tells the story of “a Tasmanian devil (who) falls in love with a woman as he watches her swim”, whilst ‘3WW‘ is a “story of love and loss in the mountains of Mexico”. ‘In Cold Blood‘ is on the opposite end of the thematic scale, depicting “a day in the life of a wood mouse” that meanwhile stumbles on dead bodies covered in blood.
The whole album is centred around a ‘Relaxer’ game with each single using images from a 90’s visual game
This is an album beginning with alt-J’s recognisably well-known echoes and reverbs, following onto a loud eclectic mix with their second single. ‘Hit Me like that Snare’ sticks with the fiery side of the album incorporating a varied language, amplified voices and the rebellious lyrics “fuck you, I’ll do what I want” showing the band experiment with a bluesy angst rock 90’s sound. ‘Deadcrush’ follows suit with reverberating atmospheric beats, a fast-strung guitar and shuffling background collated sounds that contribute to alt-J’s progressive reinvention of own music.
On the other side of the shortly fine album’s sound are the calmer songs, with ‘House of the Rising Sun’ mirroring a sombre, long interlude as a majority instrumental track, similar to ‘Adeline’ and the first quarter of ‘3WW’ which holds an elongated intro – however, this is a much more intensifying song. ‘Last Year’ then includes a woman’s soft voice midway, reminiscent of the band’s ‘Warm Foothills’ from their second album. The currently anonymous voice takes over and is accompanied by string instruments, working as a neat conclusion to the LP before their closing track ‘Pleader’.
The whole album is centred around a ‘Relaxer’ game with each single using images from a 90’s visual game. The image from the new album cover was spotted on Twitter by the alt-J drummer Sonny-Green, who later found out that it was a still image from the game ‘LSD Dream Emulator’ by a Japanese visual artist.
After listening to the album in full, the only question on my mind is what will alt-J try next? However, something tells me they have not exhausted their original avenues just yet. It’s unfortunate that Relaxer is only collated of eight tracks, but perhaps that leaves room for more material sooner in the future… Either way, alt-J’s identifiable escapist sound remains to be a winner for the dreamer type.
The album is released today, June 2.