In 2000, the Australian group The Avalanches released their debut album of electronic music, Since I Left You. The album’s 18 tracks are built almost entirely out of samples, using a technique known as plunderphonics. Basically, The Avalanches’ members Robbie Chater and Darren Seltmann were the ultimate vinyl nerds, and altered and twisted over 3,500 samples from a wide range of genres to make their singular musical statement.
The initial critical acclaim for Since I Left You has only grown in the last two decades, and the album gradually gained masterpiece status among a certain type of music fan. To understand why, I am going to ask you to check out two YouTube videos, both pertaining to the title track of the album.
Here’s “Since I Left You”:
The song’s clearly a blend of disparate sounds, but it comes together in a way that’s about as pleasing on the ear as music gets. A steady beat, a flute, a few “do-do-do”s, and finally the vocal line, which is just about perfect for the music. The song is almost endlessly enjoyable. It’s repetitive without being tiring. As a whole, the album’s songs bleed into one another, with themes and sounds popping up across tracks. Songs change midstream, leaving you with something that feels quite a bit longer and more meaty than 18 tracks.
Now check out this video:
Someone has taken the time to identify the source of each sample in the title track, placing the original next to the altered sample with the track. It’s the same song, but isolating the samples shows you what an accomplishment this really is. Sampling is not always art, but The Avalanches truly took something old (or a great many old things) and turned them into something brand new, with a life all its own.
Now, after 16 years, The Avalanches are releasing their new album, Wildflower, next month. Things have changed since 2000, and it’s not quite as easy to sneak 3,500 samples onto an album without a team of high-priced lawyers knocking at your door. They’ve released three tracks so far, and at least one, “Colours,” apparently contains zero samples, even though it has the same sound-collage feel as the original album.
Let’s see what the rest of the album brings.