You know, there’s a part of me, a small, foolish and deluded part of me, which hopes that one day, hopefully in my lifetime, The Avalanches will reform and release a new album. There’s a smaller, even more foolish part of me which hopes that the record will be a tenth as good as their debut, one of the finest dance records popular music has ever seen and one of my most favorite albums…of ALL TIME.
The Avalanches are an Australian electronic collective which gained considerable attention in the late ’90s for their massive live shows (well known for shutting down whole city blocks in their native Melbourne) and their carefree approach to music making, effortlessly bending and blending scores of endless records to make raucous, inventive music. After issuing a few EPs and mixes to the masses causing much hype and salivation, the group was courted by several labels, eventually landing at Modular Records in 1999. By that point the group was well at work on a record called Pablo’s Cruise, a concept album which raised eyebrows for its eclectic, ’60s-inflected sound, culled from samples of old and hazy bargain bin records the group dug up over the years.
Pablo’s Cruise, a tale of a dude sailing around the world chasing after his lost love, soon became Since I Left You, and in late 2000 The Avalanches blessed us with this incredible listen.
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve listened to Since I’ve Left You over the years. The album is a wonder, something you don’t just listen to, but experience. It’s a bold, kaleidoscopic mix of beautiful found sounds, perfect for a breezy and bright summer day. Everything heard on the album is a sample, little snippets of music taken from other recordings. A bassline here, a vocal there, all of it reconstructed, altered, and mashed together so well that it sounds familiar, yet completely different. It’s been estimated that The Avalanches employed over 4000 samples for the album, the bulk of it taken from obscure records from the ’50s, 60s and ’70s, including rare releases, instrumental vinyls, musical soundtracks, and even children’s records. If it had a groove, the group found some way to use it, and as a result Since I Left You is endlessly entertaining and fun. With every listen you discover something new, buried in the mix. Everything is connected, musical motifs and samples carry over from one song to another, and each track transitions seamlessly into the next. It feels like one huge awesome party.
With the album as cohesive as it is, it’s hard to choose one song to really describe this thing, so I decided on the first two songs, which open the album quite nicely. “Since I Left You” is a wondrous introduction, feeling like a rosy summer day brimming with warmth and nostalgia, before moving into “Stay Another Season,” a bouncy listen thanks to the use of Madonna‘s song “Holiday” (a sample the group originally added as a joke, almost certain that the pop queen’s camp would never agree for them to use…but they inexplicably did), however towards the end the clouds are mounting, and the plot thickens. The journey is set.
Critically and commercially acclaimed on release, it’s now been nearly…(damn) 15 years since the album’s release, and despite a few nods and hints from various corners, even The Avalanches themselves, towards a follow up over the years no one really has any idea when, or even if, a second album is happening. The group has splintered as well, dropping down to two members from the original eight. Believe me when I say that I ran the gamut of feelings over the years about this, from disbelief, to denial, to anger, to depression, and finally, acceptance. That album may not arrive, and if it does it probably won’t live up to the hype. But you know what? I’m okay with that. They have a perfect album right here.