Surprise, surprise, come 2014 and here I'm writing on This is all yours totally voluntary and the pleasure is all mine. Yes, a lot of weird things are going on on this album too, none the less this is fun to listen to and doesn't repel me in any way as 'An awful wave' did for most of the time.
Perhaps everything is explained as easily as bass player Gwil Sainsbury quitting the band before recording the new album. Who knows, I'll never know, won't I? Fact is that, despite that the cover again is quite abstract and colourful, the colours are a lot brighter this time around. Another hint at the content?
The music on This is all yours again is experimental. There's no easy way into this album. Sounds are at times fragmentary, songs cut ups, non free-flowing pieces of music, it's all there again. But a soon as I've written this, I have to admit that This is all yours puts me on the wrong foot the whole time. The odd 'Intro' is followed by the nearly classical music of 'Arrival in Nara'. The sparse piano, the just as sparse guitar notes and a plucked bass. Somehow a hint (suggestion even?) of a brushed snare drum. A song so slow, that it seems to go on for ever. There's even singing after a "long" silence. Nostalgic beauty, that is what 'Arrival in Nara' is, nothing I associated with Alt-J nor ever expected from this band that somehow promised to make a career out of musical prickly pears. 'Nara' is less nostalgic, but a surprisingly warm song. ("Love is the warmest colour" is a part of the lyrics.) Also a quality I did not associate Alt-J with. More distance and stand-offish, to be precise.
'Left hand free' is a totally odd one out. A bit of a rocker, like they produced in the 70s. With this lazy guitar riff. To make it somehow more contemporary, the vocals get a bit of a treatment, sounding almost gnarly. To compensate the listener is treated to a class of kids blowing a wooden flute. Why not? Speaking of odd ones out! 'Garden of England' is a bit weird if I'm honest and still it works in this context. That is the really weird thing about This is all yours. Totally rustic U.K. country side, rural England on flute.
'Choice kingdom' also has to do with Britannia. Again this song is rest itself. As if Alt-J is demonstrating through its music: There is no pressure on us with this second album. The band certainly dare to take its audience everywhere that it wants it to go. Just follow, you won't be disappointed, is the invitation of the band. I just did; surrendered. 'Hunger of the pine' lends some from 'O Superman', Laurie Anderson's only hitsingle and some from Miley Cyrus and why not? The sample works in the song. Both parts are just a start for the song, that builds wider and broader and becomes more interesting by the second. Alt-J surely has listened to The National as well. The wideness of a song and the seriousness mix here in a familiar way.
Taking the whole album in, This is all yours may surprise less then 'An awesome wave', but to me is more consistent or I've gotten used to Alt-J, but either of the two. At this point in time I can't be called an Alt-J fan yet, but this is a step in the right direction as far as I'm concerned. The band has found a middle ground between experiment and songs. 'Warm foothills' is such an example. Cut up technique in the alternated vocals, warm glowing music. A warm version of Radiohead at its most extreme. Something like that.
This is all yours can be called a lot, but not an easy album. It is hard work to sift through all the ideas that went into it. The different styles and different approaches make the album hard to decipher. By taking your time it is possible to warm to the album. Something that 'An awesome wave' never managed to do with me. 'This is all yours' may just do so over time. With an invitation like the one Alt-J presents to the world, it is kind of hard to resist trying, isn't it? I just love surprises.
You can listen to 'Hunger of the pine' here: