Anyone Seen My Sample?

Avalanches Since I left You 09

True story here: A family friend in Leeds needed to take a urine sample to her doctor at short notice, the most appropriate container she had was a whiskey bottle that she washed out and then filled.  For very understandable reasons of modesty she put the bottle in a shopping bag for the short journey to the doctor’s.  When she exited the crowded bus she found that someone had stolen the bottle out of her bag.  I like that story because the crime intrinsically carries its own punishment.

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But I just used it as a cheap linking reference to the word ‘sample’ because this is The Avalanches Since I Left You, a LP I got hipped to by someone hipper than I* when it came out in 2000.  Now by 2016 this LP just drips acclaim, this gang of Australian ex-punks turned DJ/producers done good.  I recommended it, the day before I bought it**, to my mate Will who bought it unheard on my recommendation and it spent the summer sound tracking his and his friends’ European road trip – he loves it, they loved it.

I don’t.

Avalanches Since I left You 01Avalanches Since I left You 02

I have heard Since I left You described as house music’s answer to Paul’s Boutique, wrong – it isn’t fit to look in PB’s direction, even.  Now I like a lot of dancey stuff, I think sampling, if done with wit, sensitivity, invention and intelligence^ is a great way to make music, from Brian Eno and David Byrne’s My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts onwards.  I really wanted this LP to be as great as everyone else seemed to think it was, but I could never find the key to unlock the door.

The brilliant cover art is 'The Sinking of USS President Lincoln' by Fred Dana Marsh.
The brilliant cover art is ‘The Sinking of USS President Lincoln’ by Fred Dana Marsh.

Clocking in at an estimated 3500 samples the Avalanches really, really went for it on Since I Left You, the samples and moods they create range crazily from various mariachi bits and bobs, film scores, The Osmonds, Wayne & Shuster and the first time Madonna had ever given permission for her work to be sampled.  Their idea was to create/curate a concept album about a chase for love around the world, I couldn’t tell you if they got there.

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Always check the sampletastic small print!
Always check the sampletastic small print!

With just one exception I cannot find a way in to this music, it just forms an aur-wall^* in my head.  The exceptions? well it is very good.  ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ based around a couple of samples from a sketch by Canadian duo Wayne & Shuster, Maurice Jarre’s^^ theme from Lawrence Of Arabia and some awesome scratching performed by Dexter Fabay.  This track stomps, progresses and struts the way I hoped it all would and the video is a fine piece of work too:

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You know those summer days when you go outside and everything seems so unhealthily bleached and blanched out by the sun in the still air? Since I Left You to me is like trying to dance in that atmosphere.  None of this is, I would add, the fault of the Avalanches.  It’s a beautifully put together album with a great cover and I do keep trying to love it – pursuing it round and round, like an aging Lothario played by Terry Thomas chasing a nubile secretary around a desk in the days before they invented sexism; I can’t see it ending too well.

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674 Down.

*I know – imagine!

**I was trying to cop the role of ‘hipper friend’ for myself.

^all of which the Avalanches clearly have in abundance.

^*see what I did there? I’m so fetch.

^^Jean Michel’s old man.

26 thoughts on “Anyone Seen My Sample?

  1. I was never all that taken by these chaps, either. Even if I did like Frontier Psychiatrist a fair bit. Some great sounding music, but just didn’t quite click with me. Maybe cause there was a lot of “oh, the Avalanches are great, aren’t they” type shenanigans. Or maybe cause the title track was a bit irritating.

  2. Enjoyed this concise little piece a lot. I even watched/listened to the vid and thus chalked up my first ever Avalanches exposure.
    I think I’ll spin the Wayne and Schuster album. I really love ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ and haven’t chuckled to ‘Rinse the blood off my toga’ for years. Cheers.

    1. Thanks Bruce. It frustrates me, this one. Blooming Aussies, with their complex, nuanced, cutting edge music – whatever happened to beer-soaked boogie?

  3. That punishment fits the crime indeed!
    I recently picked this up (on the 1001 as you know), haven’t listened yet – I shall approach with managed expectations.
    It’s easier said than done when, like you said, such releases are practically dripping with acclaim, but if I don’t love it, I’ll at least be in good company!

      1. It was fun re-reading this after finally listening to the album.
        To borrow a line from mean girls, stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen!
        I fear we may have to form that self-help group after all – for those who appreciate the highs of this album, without quite buying into the magic we’re supposed to hear in the rest.

  4. Stolen piss bottle. Oh man. That’s Dumb And Dumber territory!

    Man, that sucks. When you get a recommended album, and everyone else loves it and you don’t. I’M LOOKING AT YOU, MY BLOODY VALENTINE. I try it every couple of years and still… nothing. This one may be your My Bloody Valentine!

    “You know those summer days when you go outside and everything seems so unhealthily bleached and blanched out by the sun in the still air? Since I Left You to me is like trying to dance in that atmosphere.”

    Nailed it!

    1. Good call – it is my My Bloody Valentine (I don’t like them either). I’ll keep trying every couple of years though.

      And thank you.

      1. 🙂

        I was also gonna say the same thing about Joni Mitchell’s Blue, that one never spoke to me. But the last couple of listens have shown me it for what it is, and I’m slowly coming around to it. I think it also helped that some dashingly handsome and brilliantly capable blog writer sent me a copy on LP. That format really did help the hearing of it!

        And I am still not at all liking MBV. I think all the hipster shoegazers are just damn wrong! Haha

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