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They're not your average arena band; REVIEW: Alt-J, Cardiff Motorpoint Arena.

lt J might just be the least likely arena band around.

AFirst up, there's a sound that almost defies categorisation. It's founded on a folk-like sensibility at the heart of the songwriting, but around that is built a dense and complex network of sounds with influences ranging from electronica to Bollywood and Gregorian chants to dubstep.

Then there's the lyrical variety, at times portraying tower block violence, at others becoming overtly (almost blushingly) sexual.

Next, the band who, despite the success that has come their way, still look more like the students they were when this band formed in Leeds.

And finally, the music as a whole.

Broadly speaking, you're probably either an Alt J fan, or you've heard next to nothing of their stuff. They're one of the those slow burn, word-of-mouth acts.

And live? Don't expect showmanship.

Or a note-perfect performance. But this display had a wonky power all of its own.

The band's close vocal harmonies are probably their calling card, but the driving force of this set was the gunshot precision and energy of drummer Thom Green. Whether on mellower tracks like the warm love song Matilda, or a pulsating Fitzpleasure, his percussive commitment - wringing every drop of rhythmic potential from each line - was absolutely transfixing.

This was a set that managed to remain both controlled and bursting with exuberance. Highlights like The Gospel of John Hurt and Hunger of the Pine, during the encore, instilled an enveloping and almost hypnotic atmosphere, while Every Other Freckle and Breezeblocks were about movement and energy and excitement.

But if there was one track that summed up what this band is about, it was the opener Intro, the prologue to their second album, This Is All Yours. Opening up with a long acapella vocal harmony sequence, the song blends subtle Middle Eastern and Indian influences before exploding into a shuddering chorus of machismo. You don't get that from your average arena headliners, do you? | Paul Rowland

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 5, 2015
Words:327
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