The Avalanches performing in 2018 (Robbie Chater and touring members Spank Rock and Eliza Wolfgramm shown)
|Origin||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia|
Tony Di Blasi
James Dela Cruz
The Avalanches are an Australian electronic music group, formed in Melbourne in 1997. They are known for their two studio albums, Since I Left You (2000) and Wildflower (2016), as well as their live and recorded DJ sets. Since I Left You was a critical and commercial success, receiving multiple awards, and has been considered both one of the best albums of the 2000s and best Australian albums of all time. It was followed in 2016 by Wildflower, which also received critical acclaim.
Their current lineup consists of just Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi with most of the original line-up leaving under acrimonious circumstances. James Dela Cruz rejoined the band briefly in 2015 but left the band again in 2016 following issues surrounding his employment contract with the group. He was used in promotional material for Wildflower but wasn't an official member at the time.
Three future Avalanches members formed Alarm 115 in Melbourne in 1994 as a noise punk outfit inspired by Drive Like Jehu, The Fall, and Ultra Bide. 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 University 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 consisting 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 1997. 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 El Producto'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 released 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.
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. 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 the 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 Billboards 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 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 Questlove named Since I Left You in his top ten albums list.
The Avalanches had been working on their second album since at least 2005. Seltmann had said the album was starting out as "ambient world music", but it was still moving in different directions and would feature both samples and live music. Subsequent announcements were made of the album's release, however, it had not appeared. Other artists began to announce having worked with the band on tracks around 2011. 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". The band's official Facebook page was later updated in 2015, listing James Dela Cruz as a member of the band once again. In April 2016, the Avalanches added new images of a gold butterfly on black cloth to their social media accounts and official website. On 24 May, the group posted a video poking fun at their long hiatus since their last album and the continuous speculation of a follow-up release. On 2 June 2016, the first single from their second album, "Frankie Sinatra", was premiered on Australian radio station Triple J. The title of the album was revealed the same day to be Wildflower.
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 suffered a concussion on-stage at the V2001 festival. The remaining live dates were DJ sets with Chater only. 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 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 group returned to live performances in 2016, with a performance at Australian music festival Splendour in the Grass. Their live setup feature Chater on bass and Di Blasi on turntables, alongside guest musicians Paris Jeffree on drums, Spank Rock as MC, and Eliza Wolfgramm on vocals.
In May 2017 The Avalanches curated The Avalanches - Since I Left You Block Party as part of Sydney's Vivid LIVE festival. Playing outdoors at the Sydney Opera House, The Avalanches headlined and were joined by 'special guests' DJ Shadow, Briggs, Sampa the Great, Jonti and DJ JNETT. While The Avalanches set was billed as Since I Left You being performed live in full at Vivid LIVE for the first time since 2001, the show drew criticism from some fans as they mostly played tracks from Wildflower.