Since I Left You (XL)
Get a drink, have a good time now. Welcome to paradise," a voice greets you over the breezy beckons of guitar, flute and a festive crowd.
After a few listens to the Avalanches' Since I Left You, you'll wish you could give that guy a big hug. He's right, you'll find--this is paradise. Sixty minutes of ecstatic, sunshiny glee: a joyride through musical utopia.
Since I Left You is only now dropping in the United States after an initial release in Australia, and it's no small feat considering the album's 900 individual samples--more than you can shake a Puff Daddy disc at. By any means, that schizophrenic amount of musical clips should sound like Wesley Willis with a turntable, but instead, what emerges is carefully constructed and a buttload of fun.
Paying no attention to the notion of what party music sounds like, the five-piece band literally wills their sound into existence, not really giving any one type of music enough space to assume recognizable form. The closest reference for this kind of sonic craftsmanship might be Beck, but where the Golden Boy glues his collages together with irony, the Avalanches are blissfully earnest--their cohesion comes from pure joy. Beck makes you dance and then laughs at you for being so bad at it; these guys are part of the party themselves. Guitars and flutes fade in and out around shimmering, ethereal female vocals. A snippet of hip-hop flows comfortably alongside a horse trodding or a bit of an M.I.T. commercial clip.
"Electricity"'s introductory gospel refrain is split up and respliced into something alien and beautiful. A parrot gets a hilarious wicky-wicky solo. The Avalanches do delicate lounge melody and throw in sweeping orchestral touches but never get distracted from the fun. Better yet, the grooves are pumped, and the tushies are shaken without a single big beat until the album's climax in "Live at Domino's." Even then, it's just to prove that the Avalanches can hold the floor with the best of them, if the impulse so grabbed them.
By the album's end, you may be willing to surrender every other disc you own to these guys and humbly accept whatever they dice up and hand back to you. With Moby and Fatboy Slim saturating the car-commercial and teen-comedy demographics with their shameless whoring, candy ravers like Oakenfold sounding like they're coming down from a bad roll, and the best electronic artists turning increasingly cerebral and, well, not fun, this album is at once fresh and timeless--like a gift from the gods. We should all thank the Avalanches and start shaking some revering booty.