|Origin||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia|
|Genres||Electronica, trip hop, alternative hip hop, house, plunderphonics|
|Labels||Trifekta, Wondergram, Modular, Rex, EMI, XL, Sire, Elektra|
|Associated acts||Alarm 115|
James Dela Cruz
Tony Di Blasi
|Past members||Dexter Fabay
The Avalanches are an Australian electronic music group known for their debut plunderphonics album Since I Left You (2000), as well as their live and recorded DJ sets. Their lineup has undergone major changes over the years, but currently consists of Robbie Chater, Tony Di Blasi, and James Dela Cruz. The Avalanches' only full-length album, Since I Left You, was a critical and commercial success. The album received multiple awards and has been considered both one of the best Australian albums and top albums of the 2000s. The group has been working on a second studio album since at least 2005, including multiple guest collaborators since 2012.
Three of The Avalanches' future members formed Alarm 115 in Melbourne in 1994 as a noise punk outfit inspired by Drive Like Jehu, The Fall, and Ultra Bidet. The line-up was Robbie Chater on keyboards, Tony Di Blasi on keyboards, bass and backing vocals, and Darren Seltmann on vocals. By 1995, Manabu Etoh joined on drums, the group bought instruments, recording gear and numerous old vinyl records by the crate at second-hand shops. When Etoh was deported and Alarm 115 disbanded, these records became the core of a new project. Chater was a film student at RMIT and had access to a recording studio, which he and Seltmann used to turn the records into a 30-song demo tape labelled Pan Amateurs. In 1997 a new group of Chater, Di Blasi, Seltmann, and Gordon McQuilten on keyboards was assembled to play the tracks live. Chater, Di Blasi and McQuilten had all been school mates in Maryborough.
Starting in July, their first four shows were played under different names: Swinging Monkey Cocks, Quentin's Brittle Bones, and Whoops Downs Syndrome. The group became "The Avalanches" at their fifth gig, borrowing the new band name from an American surf rock band who recorded only one album, Ski Surfin' with The Avalanches, in 1963.
After playing the support slot for Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, they rose to prominence quickly. Trifekta Records released the debut single "Rock City" in September. This was followed in December by their seven-track extended play, El Producto, on Steve Pavlovic's Wondergram Records. Around this time DJ Dexter Fabay joined the group on turntables and keyboards. Based on the EP's success, Pavlovic signed the Avalanches to his new Modular Recordings label in May 1998. Leo Silvermann signed them to his label, Rex Records, for the exclusive United Kingdom four-track EP Undersea Community, which appeared in March 1999.
The group's profile grew with support slots on tours by the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Stereolab, and Beck. The band also played at the Tibetan Freedom Concert at Homebush, Sydney. James Dela Cruz was added to the live line-up on turntables and keyboards, and made his debut with the band at The Palace, St Kilda, supporting Public Enemy. In September 1999 Modular Recordings issued a four-track EP Electricity in Australia (12") and a two-track UK (7") version.
Since I Left You
From mid-1998, The Avalanches had been recording their debut album, initially under the working title Pablo's Cruise. In February 2000 they finished mixing it at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne. Its initial launch date in 2000 was delayed due to the need for sample clearances and overseas interest. By July, with the album, now titled Since I Left You, overdue, Chater's Gimix cassette was made available. This mixtape blended previews of forthcoming album tracks with some band favourites. Chater estimated that Since I Left You was assembled from approximately 3,500 vinyl samples. The first Australian single from the album, "Frontier Psychiatrist", was issued in August, which peaked in the top 50 on the ARIA Singles Chart. It reached No. 6 in Triple J's 2000 Hottest 100 countdown, the world's largest annual radio music poll. In October the band undertook their first Australian headline tour, appearing in all capital cities. All dates were completely sold out; however Seltmann broke his leg in Brisbane in an on-stage collision with bassist and singer Di Blasi.
In November 2000, Since I Left You was launched in Melbourne with a boat cruise party aboard the Victoria Star, through Port Phillip, with The Face and other UK media flying to Australia to cover the event. The band won six Australian Dance Music Awards. They travelled to the UK for a three-week promotional stint, including DJ sets at the Social and Fabric Nightclubs, while their remix of Badly Drawn Boy's "The Shining" was released in the UK. Since I Left You contained numerous samples, including a sample of Madonna's "Holiday" on the track "Stay Another Season".
The UK version of Since I Left You was released by XL Recordings in 2001, which debuted at No. 8 on the UK Albums Chart in April, and quickly topped 200,000 sales in the UK. Also that month, the first UK single from the album, the title track "Since I Left You", was released and debuted at No. 16 on the UK Singles Chart. The "Since I Left You" video won Video of the Year at the MTV Europe Music Awards. In July 2001 the second UK single, "Frontier Psychiatrist", debuted at No. 18. The video for "Frontier Psychiatrist" was later awarded the runner-up prize at Soho Shorts Film Festival in the UK.
London-Sire Records released the United States version in November 2001. When that label dissolved in 2003, The Avalanches switched to Elektra. The album was also released in Japan, with bonus track "Everyday". The At Last Alone EP (re-scheduled tour EP with revised track listing) was also issued in Japan. In the United States, the album peaked at No. 31 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart and No. 10 on Billboard's Top Electronic Albums chart. In the US, a promotional "Since I Left You" 12" featuring remixes from Stereolab and Prince Paul was released, and The Avalanches' remix of the Manic Street Preachers' "So Why So Sad" was issued worldwide.
Professional critics included Since I Left You on their "Best of 2000s" lists. The album was placed at No. 4 in Juice magazine's 'Best Australian albums of all time' list, and No. 10 in Pitchfork Media's top albums of the decade. In its 31 December 1999 review, Pitchfork Media bestowed the album with a high 9.5 score. In October 2010, the album was listed at No. 10 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums. In 2011, hip hop artist ?uestlove named Since I Left You in his top ten albums list.
The Avalanches, initially, played live using samplers, analogue keyboards, bass guitar, drum kit, and theremin. Their set-up later included four turntables, a percussion stand, and a battery of MIDI-controlled special effects.
The band performed at festivals during 2000–2001, including the Big Day Out, Falls Festival and V1. For their European live tour, Peter "Snakey" Whitford was used as a touring percussionist, he had previously played in the Afro Psych band Prophecy throughout the Indonesian islands. Seltmann broke his ankle during the band's Electric Ballroom show in London, while Dela Cruz became concussed on-stage at the V2001 festival. The remaining live dates were changed to DJ sets. Despite this, the band eventually received the Best Live Act 2001 award from MUZIK magazine. This format continued for the United States and Japan Since I Left You Tours. Chater, Dela Cruz and Fabay also took the DJ show around Australia, calling themselves the Magic Midgets.
Brains was a monthly club-night held outdoors behind the tiny Melbourne bar St Jeromes', and featured regular DJ sets from The Avalanches' Chater, Seltmann and Di Blasi. St Jeromes' was shut down in March 2009. Their Brains' performances were usually soca-inspired DJ sets, but included anything from the Highlife guitar music of West Africa to unusual re-edits of 1980s acid house tracks, and sometimes new The Avalanches' material. Far from a typical world music DJ set, the Brains' nights were extremely loud and celebratory, with people overflowing into Caledonian Lane, the band bringing in a special P.A. system to cope with the extra crowd. The Brains' experience toured Australia in early 2005, and spilled over into the band's DJ sets at that year's St Jerome's Laneway Festival and Meredith Music Festival. The Avalanches continued DJing at Australian festivals such as Golden Plains and Splendour in the Grass throughout 2006 and into 2007, although these sets were a return to a heavier, club sound and markedly different from the previous Brains' DJ sets.
The Avalanches have been working on their second album since at least 2005. Seltmann had said that after starting out as "ambient world music", the record was returning to more of a "party" sound. In August 2006, Modular Recordings issued a press release stating "it's sounding like everything we dared not hope for, and so much more. They've made the record of their lives basically". This was in response to a joke email which had reached the music press, in which Modular claimed it had rejected The Avalanches' new album. In January 2007, the band stated via its website that roughly 40 tracks were being considered: "it's so fuckin' party you will die, much more hip hop than you might expect, and while there is still no accurate estimated time of arrival, we're sure you're gonna love it when it arrives. ... it's ended up sounding like the next logical step to since, we just had to go around in a big circle to get back to where we belong. and one day when you least expect it you'll wake up and the sample fairy will have left it under your pillow". Subsequent announcements were made of the album's release, however, it has not appeared.
In July 2011 shortly after Since I Left You had been announced No. 9 in the Triple J Hottest 100 Australian Albums of All Time, The Avalanches posted on their Facebook "Thanks to all who voted. Tune in now to hear Robbie speak about the making of Since I Left You on triple j. Info on new Avalanches material to follow shortly". The Avalanches later announced that Since I Left You would be re-released as a deluxe edition, which would include the original album as well as B-sides, remixes and several unreleased tracks. By December, the band's Twitter page had released lyrics to a new song, "The Stepkids", but the second album's title and exact released date were not confirmed. In January 2012, American musician Jennifer Herrema revealed that she had worked with The Avalanches on the album. In March 2012, American rapper Danny Brown confirmed that he was working with the group on a track entitled "Frank Sinatra". A collaboration with American recording artist Ariel Pink has also been confirmed. On 21 August 2012, a demo of a new track entitled "A Cowboy Overflow of the Heart" was released. The song features American musician David Berman reading a poem he composed over music by The Avalanches. In September 2013, The Avalanches released a remix of Hunters & Collectors' first single "Talking to a Stranger".
In February 2014, it was revealed that Darren Seltmann was no longer a member of the group, with Modular Recordings stating "officially the band is Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi right now". In regard to the group's second album, Modular also stated "Album sounds awesome, but there's no dates or anything planned. The official line is 'stay tuned.'" In a June 2014 interview, Jennifer Herrema mentioned Robbie Chater wrote to her stating "their album was gonna be done in three weeks". The band's official Facebook page was later updated in 2015, listing James Dela Cruz as a member of the band once again.
- Robbie Chater – keyboards, mixing, producer, choir, chorus, design, guitar (1997–present) (aka Bobby C, member of Bobbydazzler)
- Tony Di Blasi – keyboards, bass, backing vocals (1997–present)
- James Dela Cruz – turntables, keyboards (2000–2004, 2015–present)
- Manabu Etoh – drums (1997)
- Dexter Fabay – turntables (1998–2003)
- Gordon McQuilten – keyboards, percussion, piano (1997–2001)
- Darren Seltmann – keyboards, brass band, choir, chorus, design, guitar, mixing, producer (1997–2014)
- Peter "Snakey" Whitford – percussion (2001–2002)
- Since I Left You (2000)
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- The Avalanches - Official Site (news, downloads, and more)
- The Avalanches - official MySpace profile
- The Avalanches at AllMusic
- The Avalanches discography at MusicBrainz
- Tracklists & Details for Avalanches Mixes
- The Avalanches select their five favourite tracks to sample
- The Avalanches - The GIMIX legendary mixtape