I went into this album with a little scepticism. Are they really just re-releasing a great album with hip-hop artists featuring on every track? Are they taking a cop out option that lots of artists are doing these days by releasing new versions of songs with a new verse added in to boost sales?
It is clear from the outset that these doubts were misplaced. What alt-J have done here is create a whole new beast of an album. While the original essence of the eight tracks on last year’s Relaxer remains, they have been completely remixed and reworked with new verses from the likes of Little Simz and Rejjie Snow. Creatively, it is probably one of the boldest choices the band could have made.
When they announced the project a few months ago, the band explained, “It’s no secret that we love and are influenced by hip-hop, and it’s always been a dream of ours to work with hip-hop artists in reimagining our music”. For a three-piece who consider themselves to be a folk band, it’s an interesting direction to take.
Two of the highlights on the album are ‘In Cold Blood’ (ft. Twin Shadow & Pusha T) and ‘Deadcrush’ (ft. Danny Brown, Alchemist & Trooko). These tracks seem to both perfectly balance the ferocity of the rap verses and electronic production with the quiet intimacy of alt-J’s typical indie sound.
It’s also interesting to hear two different versions of ‘3WW’, ‘In Cold Blood’ and ‘Hit Me Like That Snare’. You’d think it would be repetitive to have duplicates of the same song on an album but the remixes are so different from each other that they almost seem like totally separate tracks. For example, the second version of 3WW features the French rapper Lomepal. While I personally don’t speak French so didn’t really understand the lyrics, the song had an almost cinematic feel to it.
Hearing so many different genres collide across 11 tracks is a hypnotic listen. It jumps from the digitised vocals of ‘Adeline’ to the more rock-tinged ‘Last Year’ before segueing to the more aggressive trance-hip-hop of ‘Pleader’. It may well prove to be a divisive album but sonically it is very exciting and entrancing.
4 out of 5
Reduxer is released on 28 September and alt-J will be on tour in the UK in October.