The Avalanches are an Australian electronic music group formed in 1997 with mainstays Robbie Chater on keyboards, Tony Diblasi on keyboards, bass and backing vocals, and Darren Seltmann on vocals and keyboards. They are known for their live DJ sets and their debut album Since I Left You (2000), which was assembled from approximately 3500 vinyl samples. The album peaked in the top 10 on the UK Albums Chart in April 2001. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2001, the group received nine nominations and won four categories: 'Best New Artist Album' and 'Best Dance Release' for Since I Left You, 'Best New Artist Single' for "Frontier Psychiatrist", and 'Producer of the Year' for Bobbydazzler (production name for Chater and Seltmann). In October 2010, the album was listed at No. 10 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums.
Three of The Avalanches' future members formed Alarm 115 in Melbourne in 1994 as a noise punk outfit inspired by The Animals of Steel, Drive Like Jehu, The Fall, and Ultra Bidet. The line-up was Robbie Chater on keyboards, Tony Diblasi 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 vinyls into a 30-song demo tape labelled Pan Amateurs. In 1997, a new group of Chater, Diblasi, Seltmann and Gordon McQuilten on keyboards was assembled to play the tracks live. Chater, Diblasi 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 a support slot for Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and rose to prominence quickly. Their name originates from one of the group's favourite albums, Ski Surfing with The Avalanches, by an American ski-surf band of the same name. 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 De La 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, 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 3500 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 Diblasi.
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. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2001, the group was nominated in nine categories and won four:'Best New Artist Album' and 'Best Dance Release' for Since I Left You, 'Best New Artist Single' for "Frontier Psychiatrist", and 'Producer of the Year' for Bobbydazzler (Chater and Seltmann). The band also 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 US, 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 2000's' 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 De La 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 US and Japan Since I Left You Tours. Chater, De la Cruz and Fabay also took the DJ show around Australia, calling themselves The Magic Midgets.
In a 2010 interview, Dexter Fabay recalled why he had left The Avalanches: he disliked his friend Gordon McQuilten being kicked out of the band and that while Fabay had enjoyed his time in The Avalanches, he wanted to play live as a band, "Im not interested in sitting in a studio for a year trying to make another record".
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 Diblasi. 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: "its 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, were sure you're gonna love it when it arrives. ... its 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, as of December 2011, it had 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 getting the deluxe treatment this would include the original album, 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.
- Robbie Chater keyboards, mixing, producer, choir, chorus, design, guitar (1997present) (aka Bobby C, member of Bobbydazzler)
- James De La Cruz turntables, keyboards (2000-2002)
- Tony Diblasi keyboards, bass, backing vocals (1997present)
- Manabu Etoh drums (1997)
- Dexter Fabay turntables, keyboards (1997-2006)
- Gordon McQuilten keyboards, percussion, piano (1997-2001)
- Darren Seltmann keyboards, brass band, choir, chorus, design, guitar, mixing, producer (1997present) (member of Bobbydazzler)
- Peter Whitford percussion (2001-2002)
- Since I Left You (2000) UK No. 8; US Elec.No. 10.
- At Last Alone (2001)
- El Producto (1997)
- A Different Feeling (2000)
- Electricity (2001)
|"Since I Left You"||67||29||97||16|
|"A Different Feeling"|
|2008||"Frontier Psychiatrist" (re-issue 10 November 2008)|
- Gerling - "Enter Spacecapsule" (Enter the Spaceship Mix by The Avalanches) (1999)
- Badly Drawn Boy - "The Shining" (The Avalanches Good Word for the Weekend Remix) (2000)
- Manic Street Preachers - "So Why So Sad" (Sean Penn Mix - Avalanches) (2001)
- Belle & Sebastian - "I'm a Cuckoo" (Avalanches Mix) (2004)
- The Concretes - "Chico" (Avalanches' Wernham Hogg Remix) (2004)
- Wolfmother - "Woman" (Avalanches Millstream Remix) (2006)
- Franz Ferdinand - "Fade Together" (Avalanches Remix) (2006)
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- The Avalanches - Official Site (news, downloads, and more)
- The Avalanches - official MySpace profile
- The Avalanches at All Music Guide
- The Avalanches at MusicBrainz
- Tracklists & Details for Avalanches Mixes
- The Avalanches select their five favourite tracks to sample
- DJ Dexter interview with Peak Street Magazine http://peakstreet.com/post/1580327424/dj-dexter-vs-peak-street-interview