Photo by Dominic Moore

Spot the difference: one's a bunch of pubescent teenage Mac nerds, wide-eyed spectacles and the works, swiftly fabricating transgressive guitar rhythms, snaring drums and punching keys and bass drones, bursting the normalities of baroque vibrations sky high and generously supplying music mags with something to really natter about. The other are four incontestably fully grown, fully matured and fully wine-slurping men, purveying British romance at its best with their intimate and joyous oeuvre. Yes, you've got it – we're talking about Alt-J and Wild Beasts, two bands undeniably contrasting at either end of the Richter scale but both of whom are worthy of ears all round.

Before we veer off into the land of Where The Wild Things Are though, supporting foursome Alt-J shyly sliver on stage at the Exeter Phoenix. If you've clicked through to this review, the likelihood that you've heard echoes from Alt-J's direction is soaringly high. Let's face it, their name hardly gets your blood warm and your heart pumping, but tracks like 'Fitzpleasure' give every reason for us to tag them on our 'One's To Watch' list. By standard of meaning, what Alt-J craft is thrilling; all the little hints, from their web twirling ∆'s weaving behind hypnotic Technicolour Dreamcoat waves on their homepage, to their compatible ignorance to modern definitions of music – Alt-J make 12 year-old boys excited about music again.

Their current demos only begin to hint at what they are, and most importantly what they could become, embedding themselves within the push to break boundaries in modern music alongside the likes of other post-rockers/ turned electronica's Mount Kimbie and James Blake, and with the release of their debut An Awesome Wave set to drop in late May, they're something to get excited about. Live it's no different - 'Breezeblocks''s bass-driven disarray thunders onwards and Foals' evil twin 'Tesselate' boasts Alt-J's thriving aptness at creating expansive and airy glows. Revelling in vocalist Joe Newman's cinamon-powdered croons, the nature of the more upbeat numbers slither into oriental regions with 'Hand Made' and 'Matilda''s gentle intimacy, confirming that Alt-J aren't just dubstep constricted sensibility.

Meanwhile, Alt-J reflect the same tight instrumental bondage live as heard on their demos; the drums are tighter than anything heard this side of Bristol, and classically trained Unger-Hamilton's untarnished keys integrate themselves stainlessly amidst the bebopping chaos. Without a doubt it's 'Fitzpleasure''s surrealist, transgressive opus that consummates itself as the honourable knee-jerker and finaliser of the set (plus note: attempt to insert baffling lyrics at 0:27).

On and on the pursuits go, though - Wild Beasts are up. Their third album, rightly titled Smother, praised all expectations; it smoothly edged itself as the dignified representation of Summer 2011 alongside the British triumph of guitar music besides Horrors' Skying and Arctic Monkeys' Suck It And See. Noticeable though Wild Beasts' approach was less about taking E and Skying or even 50's rock n' roll, rather than a discovery of self-acceptance, in spite of skepticism. Lyrically, Wild Beasts probed even further. While the lyrics were dark, desirable and icy, on stage Wild Beasts carry themselves with humble tranquillity. The result is that they're serene and settled and free to express themselves intimately, such as in the devastatingly affectionate 'Albatross', embracing Ben Little's guilt with entangling guitar rhythms and majestic piano as luminous flares radiate from the ceiling above.

This, of course, all makes way for the captivating alternation between Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming's vocals. Thorpe's despairing falsetto's and Fleming's deep internal croons cohere dreamily, and the decision to rotate is a wise one. The idiosyncrasy of both Thorpe and Fleming's inception in society's role of male masculinity and territorial aggression casts spells upon audience members, and the despair in Fleming's 'All The Kings Men' is almost tangible, as he states before the song: “This one is about fucking.”

Make no mistake, this is a 'Best Moments' tracklisting; Fleming politely asks audience members to imagine the set as a “peek through the looking-glass,” before swiftly propelling into 2009's coltish 'The Devil's Crayon' with a grateful response from the mostly middle-aged crowd, and in the latter possesses hearts with 'Two Dancer' classics 'The Fun Powder Plot' and 'Hooting And Howling' in its mystifying lyricism.

Wild Beasts also offer a host of shameless, rousing instrumentals. Guitarist Ben Little opens 'Bed Of Nails' with a rousing display of ingenuity as he carves ambient swashes with a violin bow, but it's set closer 'End Come Too Soon''s extended near two minute array of bewildering electronic swathes that keeps every witness anxious on their feet. It's these workouts that truly amaze.

Sure, Exeter Phoenix hasn't a dime on last Summers Field Day Festival crowd gorged in bleeping sheep, but Wild Beasts still exude with the same submissively seductive and strikingly distinctive presence as ever before. As Thorpe sways intently back and forth in his humble manner, gazing in wisdom whilst slurping on ripe red wine, he closes the set in the most polite manner possible, “thank you for your time and graciousness” repeatedly. It is only then evident how elegantly discrete and modest Wild Beasts really are and how, in merely three years, they have matured into a delicately smooth refinement of what British romance truly is, making them one of the finest bands to have arisen from the UK.