To listen to the Avalanches is to wrestle with time. The sample-rich music made by this group of Australian DJs makes you think about where its pieces come from, what those fragments meant to you then, and what they mean to you embedded into the group’s finished songs. There’s nostalgia and loss ingrained in every bar, and you can sense the erratic movement of past, present, and future from the first listen.
Speaking of time, there’s also the fact that the Avalanches waited 16 years to follow up their debut album, 2000’s landmark Since I Left You. To be a fan of the Avalanches, you had to be patient. Some of the delay was to be expected. Their first record was said to have thousands of samples, but you never can tell with a figure like that—let’s just agree that it contained a lot. And working with samples means submitting yourself to a longer timetable. Because whileJarvis Cocker might pick up a guitar and write eight songs in two days, building music from other music means you have to do a lot of listening. Which means sampling artists spend a great deal of time engaged in the same activity as their audience—driving around with the radio on, poised by the turntable, dropping a needle, clicking around on YouTube, walking around with headphones. And there are no shortcuts. Throw in the usual long-delayed-album mix of bad equipment, poor health, perfectionism, and clearance issues, and who knows, maybe we’re lucky to get Wildflower, the first new Avalanches record in 16 years.