ALT-J + SOHN @ THE SHRINE AUDITORIUM
Photos by Leslie Kalohi Words by Kyle Smith
When Alt-J took the stage at the Shrine Auditorium Wednesday night, the three band members appeared side-by-side, each in their own segmented box of lights, where they remained throughout their bombastic and mathematically precise 18-song set.
Starting with the gentle “3WW,” also the opening number on new LP RELAXER, Alt-J put forth a characteristically cohesive and clean sound. From the song’s gentle beginning to its cascading breakdown, back to the precious revelation of, “I just want to love you in my own language,” the opener exemplified their dynamic interplay and pastoral vocal harmonies.
On “Something Good,” and “Tessallate,” there was particularly powerful thud from drummer Thom Sonny Green, especially on the former which contained a bone-cracking kick drum to the soul. Although much of the sound boomed, the British band members themselves appeared almost exclusively upright, ever the stoic trio.
“Deadcrush,” one of the less memorable RELAXER cuts had a welcome sparkly punch when executed live. Fellow album track “In Cold Blood” had a sonic identity crisis sufficient enough to creep out Truman Capote himself. “Dissolve” was the most outwardly joyous; it could have passed as a b-side from the pen of Michael Angelakos, and was a prime example of the unique cerebral disco that Alt-J will frequently tap in to.
The vertical light bars that created the apportionments on stage added much to the proceedings. When the visuals went haywire, it appeared as if the band was stuck in an equalizer, or a scene from The Matrix. White hot dotted lights gave way to colorful cones in the raucous “Left Hand Free,” the light show proving to be in step with the adventurousness of the music.
By the time of “Every Other Freckle,” Alt-J were at full throttle, and goddamn it was loud. “Hit Me Like That Snare,” an inarguably strange song from RELAXER was all math rock punk. It eventually led to the Eurasian jig in the chorus in “Taro,” yet another song where Alt-J masterfully melds words and syllables in to almost unrecognizable sound.
New jam “Pleader” contained cinematic tension at the outset, and moved to evoke church hymns and the new age pastoral of Enya – this is a high compliment. It was the apex of a fantastic show. The crazy tribal filth of “Fitzpleasure” closed the main set with its indelible and sordid lyrics.
SOHN opened the night with a righteous version of his organic electronica brew, a sort of glitchy neo soul r&b concoction. Seated with an array of knobs at his disposal, and backed by a drummer and two percussionists who helped bring the organica, SOHN took us to church during “The Wheel,” and when thanking the audience, even his spoken words were auto-tuned.
Alt-J at Shrine Auditorium Setlist
Something Good (The Ripe & Ruin)
In Cold Blood
The Gospel of John Hurt
Every Other Freckle
Hit Me Like That Snare
Left Hand Free