The Avalanches

Since I Left You






The AvalanchesSince I Left You an Exotica album? Are you kidding? Nope, I truly believe that their debut captures the ideas of holiday bliss, beach walks and adventurous jungle vistas flawlessly, although with a clear focus on club compatibility and with different stylistic devices than those of the Exotica Kings of the late 50‘s – even though there is a whole zoo of animal noises and field recordings on the album. With only a few minor exceptions, all 18 songs inherit the band‘s Australian flavor, burst with ideas and bubbling over with literally hundreds of short but definitely recognizable samples of Exotica, Pop, Disco and Shoegaze songs, and even the song titles capture colorful memories.


This cocktail is sui generis, no other band was able to pull such a coup and get the permission from dozens of a dozen record labels and artists, the most famous example being Madonna who actuated a one-time permission and allowed the band to sample the bassline of Holiday and use it as the base frame for their track Stay Another Season. The album is a refined and slightly changed revision of their unreleased (but bootlegged) song collage called Gimix, a beta version of Since I Left You, if you like. All in all, it is refreshingly outstanding how open The Avalanches are in regard to their used samples. They mention most of them in the liner notes, in small print, naturally, that gets smaller and smaller.


Quite a few songs and snippets are missing in these liner notes, but the vast majority is mentioned, making each detective work or guessing game obsolete – quite a change indeed, as everything is presented to the listener on a silver tray, elucidating the band‘s proudness of each sample permission and illustrating the long way the band had to go in order to bring the release to fruition. If you think that the fun of listening to the album is thus spoiled, think again. And while you think about it, let‘s dive into most of the songs of this fantastic release which is one of my 10 favorite albums of all genres and all times.


The first track is named after the album and already consists of seven sampled tracks, among them the prominent refrain of Everyday by The Main Attraction. If there is one song that captures the orgasmic joys of being independent and self-confident of each choice one makes, it must be Since I Left You which was one of many singles off that album. A perfect holiday song that starts with a gentle solo on an acoustic guitar, followed by soothing backing choirs, background strings and the remarkable introduction "Have a drink, have a good time now, welcome to paradise." Dots of glockenspiels add to the song‘s pristine flavor. This is a perfect Exotica pop song, its ingredients being kitschy, but the final result having no traces of kitsch at all.


This and the following track Stay Another Season are also for the feminists, as both songs feature the aforementioned Main Attraction lyrics "Since I left you I found the world so new," while Stay Another Season samples the bassline of Madonna‘s Holiday and merges it with Yma Sumac‘s Gopher. The track moves to a jazzy piano loop later and shakes all further Holiday resemblances off. The following Radio is another stormer which I adore: a thumping beat forms the base of the track, and funky guitars and wah wah-synth pads accompany it. The percussion in the background is also noteworthy, as it consists of a fuzzy loop of some static noise or something like that. It‘s quite chopped, but works wonderfully.


Two Hearts In 3/4 Time begins with a "Money" sample of the film Cabaret from 1972 and features the beautiful Yu-Ma by Marlena Shaw, her beautiful voice being complemented by vibraphone-esque space pads and quiet brass bursts. The beautiful summer mood of the song later changes into a military march-like pirate shanty with dark brass sections and hectical percussion.


Flight Tonight is a high-energy breakbeat track that features female "Jamaica" exclamations, a firework of high-frequency pew pew pew laser sounds and a few toasts by the French Saïan Supa Crew. The Exotica factor of this song is slim, but in the context of the album, it is charming, and the permanent referral to Jamaica supports the wanderlust. Close To You takes over the dance concept of Flight Tonight and loops Polynesian flute samples next to Hammond organs and the refrain of Kid Creole & The CoconutsStool Pigeon. On top of this, The Avalanches add another high-pitched funky melody later and throw in careful excerpts of the tongue-showing Roadrunner. A Different Feeling contains Debbie ReynoldsTammy, the only soothing element in a summer-stay beach track which, however, morphs into a slightly sadder mood with the inclusion of Cerrone‘s Love In C Minor.


The next track Tonight is the only letdown on the album … for the dance-hungry crowd, but not for the idealized lifes of Exotica lovers! The track consists of nothing else than a looped sample of Tonight May Have To Last Me All My Life by Nancy Wilson, which is at the same time the longest sample on the album. Purposeful vinyl crackles recall the old, glamourous days of the 60‘s when every quiet ballad was loaded with these pops. I don‘t know why this little ballad interlude was thrown in to a predominantly dance-friendly album, but I don‘t mind its inclusion at all. A nice pause for a breath it is for sure. Another interesting interlude of a similar kind is Pablo‘s Cruise that features more vinyl pops and a gigantic steamer horn at the end – with no beat in sight.


Frontier Psychiatrist is definitely the band‘s signature track and shows in a nutshell what they are capable of if they get loose. Throwing in Wayne & Schuster skits and Enoch Light‘s My Way Of Life, this song is the pinnacle of creative sampling; the band exaggerates on a quantitative level here, but this is done on purpose and only on this song. Instead of writing about Frontier Psychiatrist in depth, go check it out yourself on iTunes immediately. Chances are that you recognize it as that song which you didn‘t encounter for quite some time. It‘s quite popular and everyone‘s favorite. However, my favorite track in terms of that certain Exotica feeling has to be Summer Crane, which again isn‘t loved by nightclubbers, but probably the track you have to listen to if you aren‘t fond of electronic mash-ups but want to check out a calmer track. It features a beautiful acoustic guitar, gentle harps, quiet percussion, a beautiful main melody played on a marimba, ukulele loops and cries of cranes. A euphonious song for a beautiful summer day with added strings played in Japanese style at the end.


The interlude Little Journey features a short bassline encore of Madonna‘s Holiday with lots of added bird noises, before the last dance track of the album is presented, the huge Live At Dominoes, also known as that track featuring the funk guitar riff off Boney M.‘s Ma Baker all too prominently. However, the band mixes it skillfully with The Rio Carnival Orchestra‘s Haiti, quite an achievement which works surprisingly well. The track is furthermore quite exotic. The closer is called Extra Kings. It reunites a few songs that were sampled on the album before and adds static noises and warbled radio frequencies to the mix. And that‘s the end of one of the best albums I have ever heard.


Since I Left You is definitely neither the best example of the Exotica genre – nor is it the worst. It shows that Exotica is always based on two premises: firstly, the arrangement of the music, and secondly, the ideas that are transported by it. The Avalanches pulled off a coup and a music-related miracle, prevailing over lots of obstacles and setbacks in order to release this consistent work of sample art. Chirping birds, galloping horses, old steamer horns, gentle waves and party chit-chat, among other things, show the album‘s soul: what a lot of people might consider as gimmicky elements is, on the contrary, essential for fans of Exotica, since the earliest recordings of Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman and Les Baxter taught us the importance of sound snippets or imitated noises that seem to originate right out of paradise if they blend perfectly with the music. In this regard, The Avalanches deliver. If you‘re coming from a Jazz background and aren‘t too sure about electronic music, give this album a chance, by all means! Sampling hundreds of varied records and creating an album that clocks in at 60 minutes cannot work out – except on Since I Left You.


"2012, finally, must see the return of The Avalanches with their long due second LP, as rumours and demos seem to be passed along secretly, probably initiated by The Avalanches themselves, and their label Modular tweeted a confirmation about the next step." This is what I have written in my original review. The years went by, and even at the beginning of 2016, no follow-up LP ever materialized. If anything can come close to their debut, it will surely be delivered by none other than the combo. I won‘t be worried or disappointed if their second offering sounds entirely different or focuses on other musical elements and styles – it will only make me think about intensifying my praise for Since I Left You.


Further reading: 


Exotica Review 020: The Avalanches – Since I Left You (2000). Originally published on Jan. 7, 2012 at