I will hold up my hands: Alt-J aren't a band that naturally make lots of sense to me. Yes, I hear Joe Newman's keening vocals, the "la-la" hooks and the clattering percussion but they've never been an act to which I've gravitated. In my quest for infinite knowledge, I have taken to conducting important and worthwhile investigations on them. I've tried to plumb their depths to see what I can learn about the four-piece's trianglewave, Mercury Prize-winning indie that feels so foreign to me.
And that brings us to this latest news, of Alt-J launching an online game to promote their new album Relaxer, due on 2 June. It invites you to "enter the world of Relaxer" via their website and wind your way through a maze-like world with early Apple II Prince of Persia-style graphics in the style of the album artwork. This is cool, I guess, and pretty on brand for Alt-J. It's also significant of the new, and increasingly unorthodox type of album promotion cycle that seems to be turning into a mini trend at the moment. Earlier this year, John Mayer planned to "tease" his album by releasing songs in monthly four-track batches, leading up to the full release of The Search for Everything this month. In the end, we got two "waves" but the overall sentiment remained. We've also got Gorillaz ramping the world up for their new album Humanz, due 28th April. So far there's been a dripfeed of news on everything from a haunted house and TV show to, the latest, an app via which they'll host a virtual reality "global listening party" for the album.
It's all well and good to think of new and innovative ways to market records, but at the same time, there's a lot to be said for an amazing music video or live performance. In the fast-moving social media climate, it's easy to get carried away by new, never-done-before ideas, but they also quickly become jarring when we're oversaturated by them, and right now I'm pretty sure we're at breaking point.
But I digress. I don't mean to knock "Relaxer: The Game" before I've even tried it. Is it actually any good? I feel an investigation coming on!
How Good is Alt-J's "Relaxer" Game in Comparison to the Literal Best Game on the Internet, Magician Paul Daniels' "Rabbits"?
To provide some context, late British magician Paul Daniels left the world a gift after his death last year, in the form of his web game "Rabbits" (accessible via the best URL ever conceived of: www.pauldaniels.co.uk/rabbits). You play as a rabbit who has – and I quote – "gone under the stage to collect some magical items." Can "Relaxer" even hope to compare to this behemoth of internet gaming? Is it really worth its salt if not? Let's find out.
In "Relaxer", Alt-J invite you to explore a digital world apparently inspired by their album. In "Rabbits," Paul Daniels, national treasure, invites you to play as a rabbit searching for "magical items" which include his assistant Debbie's "shoes". No brainer here, really. Paul wins.
Tough one. Alt-J's cyberspace feels like a cool psychedelic fever dream, but the intro screen for "Rabbits" is … well. Christ, it's this:
I cannot call it. It's a tie.
The Alt-J game wants you to explore their world and it's a 360-degree "experience", which is kind of cool. I'm not sure you could actually call it a "game" however, as there's very little achievement-orientated activity involved. "Rabbits", however, requires you to reach the target of 66 missing under-stage items, therefore providing hours of fun and leaving you with a real sense of success.
"Rabbits" is better. Album promotion cycles are potentially getting sillier. Soz lads.
(Image: Screenshot via altjband.com/relaxer)