The Avalanches - Since I Left You
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The Avalanches
Since I Left You

After hearing about this release several months ago, I was intrigued. Supposedly, the group started out with something like 900 samples and honed it down from there, still leaving enough so that samples credited are in eye-bleeding font size. Having been a fan of both scratch-type albums (like Kid Koala's Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) and even the surgical style of of Richie Hawtin's latest 'mix" DE9: Closer To The Edit, I figured that it was something I needed to own. The only thing keeping me from buying it straightaway was that it was only available on import and sported a pretty hefty pricetag, but fortunately I also soon read that the group would be releasing it domestically soon enough (once they'd gotten all the samples cleared).

In the meantime, I did a little hunting and found a promotional only mix that the group had put together that was called "Gimix." As any fan of the group knows, it's 40 minutes of non-stop goofball mixing. There are points in the disc where Hall and Oates are mixed with Daft Punk and others where Bob Dylan is singing over the beat from a Madonna song. Somehow, they manage to make it all work (although they'd never be able to get clearence for all the high-profile samples they pillage) and it comes across as a good-time mix, suitable for shaking booty and having a chuckle at the same time.

Fortunately, Since I Left You is just about the same way. Building from different parts of that "Gimix" track, it expands in several different places and opens up to new areas in others, making it an even more fun trip. I'm not sure whether one would even call this release a mix or an actual album, as some of the pieces of tracks are so hacked and cobbled that although recognizable bits sneak through now and again, everything ends up as almost completely different than it originally was. The genre-jumping style of the album will become pretty obvious after only a couple tracks as well. The release opens up with the album-titled track "Since I Left You" and it chugs along with a cheeseball beat and a vocal sample that sounds like the young Michael Jackson (although it isn't) before mixing into a track with little bits of instrumentation from Madonna's "Holiday" creeping through horse sound effects and the static pops of an old record sample.

From there, things change up even more, as the group works in a bit of hip-hop (in both "Radio" and "Flight Tonight"), disco funk ("A Different Feeling") and wacked-out lounge ("Tonight"). The coup of the entire album arrives in the form of "Frontier Psychiatrist," though, a song with a beat so funky and samples so funny it would be the single of the year if people didn't mind singing along with oddball samples that match up like "now tighten your buttocks/pour juice on your chin/I promised my girlfriend/I'd play the violin" (trust me, it will make sense if you hear the song). The group also manages to scratch a sample of a parrot into one of the most delightful "choruses" in recent memory and the track is so goofy and excellent you'll find it stuck in your head for a longtime after hearing it (and you find yourself telling people they're "crazy in the coconut"). Following the high note of that track, the group calms things down in a great way with "Etoh," a track that echoes back to classic work by The Art Of Noise with a light beat and subtle chopped-up vocals.

Not content to let things drift, the album gets cranked up yet again with the very infectious "Live At Dominoes," which again mixes a whole smorgasboard of samples into a funky track that Daft Punk only wishes could have been on their most recent release. Although it doesn't list all samples used in making the release, the album liner notes do list the ones that they specifically had to get clearance for, and they're listed in a "so small it will make your eyes bleeed" font. I don't know if there were over 900 samples used as I originally heard, but surprisingly the disc is very cohesive no matter how many the amount used. It obviously has its high points and moments that drift a little more, but The Avalanches are definitely onto something with the release. It has enough styles that almost anyone will find something of interest on it, and it's a hell of a lot of fun. Chuck this one in the stereo at the next party and booties will move.

rating: 8.7510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00