Confusing yet refreshing: Alt-J's Reduxer
Following a somewhat lacklustre release in the form of last year’s Relaxer, Alt-J have returned to breathe new life into the original tracks, reworking them into a global hip-hop infused trip. Whilst not being without its low points, Alt-J’s Reduxer makes a solid attempt at reinvigorating its thin source material into a series of confusing yet refreshing new pieces.
Announcing its release with the statement that “this album is truly global, featuring rappers and producers from all over the world”, Alt-J have really flexed their music industry pecs in bringing together a range of international hip-hop artists and producers, most of whom successfully jolt the snoozing Relaxer tracks back to life with their revamps. Danny Brown provides a stand out feature on Alchemist x Trooko’s reworking of Deadcrush, bringing his signature jackrabbit vocals to a slower backing than his usual, making this a standout track both in terms of his performance and the production. Reduxer’s second half sees a run of international rappers, featuring Puerto-Rico’s PJ Sin Suela, France’s Lomepal, and Germany’s Kontra K. The latter two in particular provide two of the vocal triumphs on the album. Lomepal’s version of 3WW brings out the sunnier side of the track, transforming it completely into stripped down love song complete with hints of fluttering French vocals. To its contrast, Kontra K provides a straighter remix of In Cold Blood which, despite being predictable at points, brings an injection of fun and jumping German rap.
Indeed, it is the two new versions of In Cold Blood that constitute Reduxer’s ‘bangers’, as it were. This is hardly a surprise given that the original was one of Relaxer’s standout singles. Kontra K’s relatively formulaic reworking of the track is matched by Twin Shadow’s straight up hip-hop trip, complete with snapping percussion, distorted vocals, and a bassline that sharpen the track to its full potential. Pusha-T lends his rhythmic vocals to this refreshingly short and sweet reworking of Alt-J’s best piece of source material. Hit Me Like That Snare is also given two bites at the cherry on Reduxer, with both Jimi Charles Moody and Rejjie Snow taking turns at equally jazzy reinterpretations of the track. Of the two, Jimi Charles Moody emphatically comes out on top, with his dreamy funk-rock reimagination bringing a much-needed injection of sultry sexiness to the somewhat frigid original.
Reduxer is not without its mistakes, however, as is to be expected of an experimental record such as this. OTG’s reimagination of 3WW is by far the greatest departure from the original track, and whilst Little Simz raps with a tight and precise flow as ever, the mystifying reworking is just that little bit too jarring to make sense. As the first track on the album, it certainly throws the listener in at the deep end. Having been given the track most in desperate need of a refresh, ADP’s dark twist on Adeline fails to hit hard enough to make it memorable; despite Paigey Cakey and Hex’s best efforts, the additional vocals are not quite enough to elevate the quiet original into the warped hip-hop experience one can only imagine its producer had been aiming for. In a similar vein, the Terrace Martin version of Last Year is truly saved by GoldLink’s vocals, adding a much needed smoky vocal to the otherwise bland reworking.
Alt-J’s Reduxer truly does breathe new life into the slim pickings of last year’s Relaxer. Whilst some of the reworked tracks fail to hit the mark - which is only to be expected on an experimental endeavour - the majority inject the original material with jolt of new energy. As a band who have made a name out of confusion, and in a world all but ruled by a global wave of hip-hop, this is hardly the bravest release Alt-J could have made. Nevertheless, Reduxer holds enough gems and provides sufficient departure from Relaxer’s original tracks to make it a worthy and much appreciated full release. Those who found Relaxer confused and jarring will certainly not find any resolution here, but for those of us who revel in Alt-J’s signature weirdness, Reduxer represents the album that Relaxer probably should have been in the first place.