Alt-J: Relaxer review – short, belligerent and odd

The mainstream has embraced Alt-J: their short career has witnessed them headline Madison Square Garden, win major awards and accrue over a billion streams. Their two albums have sold in excess of 2m copies. And yet here we are in 2017, listening to Pleader, featuring the London Metropolitan Orchestra, Ely Cathedral boy choristers, police siren samples and voices calling “Victoria! Victoria! This is our queen!” Relaxer’s oddness is compounded by the album’s artwork, which references the Playstation One video game LSD: Dream Emulator.

There is much for an addled brain to explore here: spooky shadows, flourishes of beauty that dissolve into horror, bizarre historical references, splurging sexuality. Deadcrush is Nine Inch Nails on helium, and Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell creeps in on the labyrinthine 3WW. It’s a short yet extravagant blow-out, a Heston Blumenthal banquet of an album, so consumed with its own belligerently perplexing path, it may exclude peripheral fans.

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