Not knowing anything about an artist has, in the past, proved something of an impediment to trying to review their work. So here’s everything I know about The Avalanches: 1. they had a few reasonably big hits in around 2000 with songs like Since I Left You; 2. they’re Australian; 3. their one and only album was released fifteen years ago this week, which is why we’re listening to it now.
The album opens with the title track, which was apparently a number 16 hit in the UK, and is undeniably a great song. It’s hard to approach it with any expectations at all, as their profile – in the UK at least – was so low, and this would have been true at the time as well. They do fit into a common genre of the period, the sample-heavy laid back pop bracket, but they also have their own particularly bonkers leaning.
Since I Left You mixes very smoothly into Stay Another Season, a nice, long Latin-style interlude that mixes in elements from the first track and some of the others that we’re going to hear later. Then we’re into the second full-length track, Radio, which is a particularly odd one – the best way to describe it would probably be a pleasant slice of gentle pop. It neither stands out nor fades into the background.
Two Hearts in 3/4 Time is next, and you could easily forget this one too, although it’s nice too. This is another album where viewing it as a single whole is probably a much better strategy than trying to pick out favourite songs. There’s then another little interlude in the shape of Avalanche Rock before the lovely Flight Tonight.
This is a strange one, because it’s one of those tracks that’s so firmly embedded in your mind that you have to assume it must have been a single, but apparently not – it’s a great track though, although somehow it managed to miss out on appearing on our Playlist for stowaways on this very site.
By this point, as they should, the 18 tracks on here are starting to blur a little. Close to You mixes into Diners Only, then A Different Feeling and Electricity. Occasionally, some sample or sequence grabs you, but try to name the track you’re listening to at a given moment, and you’ll struggle.
Hidden amongst these are some very beautiful moments, though, as Tonight May Have to Last Me All My Life proves, before mixing into the short interlude Pablo’s Cruise and then the exceptional and funny second single Frontier Psychiatrist. As a song, it entirely defies description, so all you can really express here is how great it is, full of enormous dub reverb on top of hilarious samples. It mixes into Etoh, which in turn pushes on to Summer Crane, and on the album goes.
There’s little else to say really here – everything is great, particularly on a hot summer’s day, but nothing stands out on its own. Little Journey drifts through to Live at Dominoes, and then finally, with Extra Kings, we reach the end of the album.
So Since I Left You is definitely an odd release, but a very good one too. And since the follow-up is showing no sign of turning up yet, fifteen years later, it remains our only taster for The Avalanches.
There’s supposed to have been a deluxe edition floating around, but I can’t find any record of it, so for now, stick to the original release, which is still widely available.