As the Mayans probably did not predict, the millennium did reveal an exquisite tapestry made up from approximately three and half thousand vinyl samples. Through much trial and perhaps some error, The Avalanches pieced together SINCE I LEFT YOU revealing an astonishing hour of electronica far removed in style from any one genre of the samples used. Such an album is the ideal retort to anybody claiming sample-driven music is unoriginal.
The tone of the album’s namesake – the opening track – is overwhelmingly soulful. The beats tend to be mellow but still as contagiously catchy as any one of their contemporaries. Lyrically, loops of lifted stately voices in ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ repeat the maxim of the orderly: “The boy needs therapy.” The phrase is creepily interjected with the isolated label of “psychosomatic,” among other equally clinical phrases. The effect is unnerving but the inimitable bass grooves are no less danceable because of it.
However, the album’s initial commercial appeal seems to have undergone a gradual disintegration in ‘pop culture’ in a way that, say, DJ Shadow’s ENDTRODUCING has not. In spite of critical lauding and ever-more stringent sampling laws, The Avalanches have been restrained in reinforcing the legacy of SINCE I LEFT YOU: the group haven’t released a follow-up in the decade since.
And yet, from a horse’s neigh in ‘Stay Another Season’ to Hollywood strings in ‘Summer Crane’ via some foghorns and a few more animal sounds, The Avalanches pack an eccentric batch of samples into the album. It never sounds overwrought, pretentious or unwelcome. The genius of the album is discovered as they persistently hold together this bag of sonic oddities. It’s uncompromising yet primed for the radio, artistic without being exclusive and due a second wave of popularity as rapid as the one found on its album cover.