Alt-J’s new album Relaxer surprises fans with a series of unexpected beats


My go-to playlist on Spotify is titled “masterpieces.” I am an avid Spotify subscriber, and I use my multitude of playlists as a soundtrack to my daily life.

Some playlists are non-exclusive and full of a random assortment of “one-hit-wonder” songs, while others are more thoughtfully planned out and contain only the rawest and most beautiful songs that move me to my very core. “Masterpieces” is one of these special playlists. Not just any song receives the honor of being added, but almost every song on alt-J’s latest album Reduxer meets or exceeds the criteria.

Reduxer is a remixed version of alt-J’s previous album, Relaxer, which was released in 2017. British indie-rockers Joe Newman and Gus Unger-Hamilton are the men behind the name “alt-J.” They created this album in order to fulfill their dreams of reworking their sound into something that falls in the hip-hop and R&B genres.

According to an article on Billboard, the band says “It’s no secret that we love and are influenced by hip-hop. It’s always been a dream of ours to work with hip-hop artists in re-imagining our music.”

Unger-Hamilton also spoke about the group’s willingness to branch out in their music due to fans’ increasing openness.

“The point I keep coming back to is that music fans are a lot more open now to different genres of music,” Unger-Hamilton said. “I think a lot of fans of ours are also hip-hop fans and that’s not weird.”

A collaboration with artists like Little Simz, Pusha T, Goldlink, Rejjie Snow, and Kontra K allowed alt-J to do just that. The 11 tracks on the album encapsulate numerous emotions as well as numerous languages, featuring a mix of Spanish, French, and German on tracks such as “Pleader” feat. PJ Sin Suela, “3WW” feat. Lomepal, and “In Cold Blood” feat. Kontra K.  

The two tracks that called to me the most, though, were “Hit Me Like That Snare” featuring Rejjie Snow and “House of the Rising Sun.” Both songs were originally released on alt-J’s previous album Relaxer, however, the feel of both songs was altered drastically on their new album.

“House of the Rising Sun,” originally sung by The Animals in 1964, was one of the first songs on the album that caught my eye. After the first 15 seconds, it was immediately added to “masterpieces.” Seeming to be a haunting rendition of a past lover, the mix of new sounds and instruments added much more to the song than the version on Relaxer could bring. One of my favorite additions was the phone call at the end of the track, which made the story feel all more powerful and added an element of intimacy.

Out of many other amazing tracks on the album, another song that intrigued me was “Hit me Like that Snare” featuring Rejjie Snow. This song was initially interesting to me because it was featured twice on the album, once featuring Rejjie Snow and another time with Jimi Charles Moody. The Jimi Charles Moody version was adequate, however, the addition of the electric guitar in the Rejjie Snow version was much more appealing to the ears. While the first rendition had a more grungy feel to it, its second appearance had more of a mellow tone and was softer to listen to.

My final favorite was “Deadcrush” featuring Danny Brown. In my opinion, this was the song that remained most consistent with the sound of alt-J’s other albums. This song was packed with intense noise that seemed to dance between each of my earbuds, and I was definitely moved by the particular feel of this song. In addition to this, I was also a fan of how they kept at least one song on the album that didn’t completely alter the feel of their band.

As a whole, the album felt somewhat jumbled together due to the many collaborations with different artists. For me, however, this did not lessen my interest in the music, and I still felt a connection to most of the songs on the album. The references to real-life situations brought a more down-to-earth element to the tracks, which made them that much more relatable. Alt-J had a lot to live up to with the success of their previous album Relaxer; however, the collaborations and stylistic choices featured on Reduxer certainly did not disappoint.