Never mind digging in the crates — the Avalanches probably just buy them whole, sight unseen, and find a way to bounce off each platter. Eventually morphing into a gang of six merrymakers bent on filtering their all-encompassing record collections through original instrumentation and a great deal of sampling, the Avalanches came from one of the most unlikely places to generate mind-bending dance music — Australia.
Perfectly fitting with the band’s range, the roots of the crew are in punk. Robbie Chater and Darrin Seltmann were in a couple of short-lived outfits together, most notably the Swinging Monkey Cocks. Gordon McQuilten, Toni Diblasi, and Dexter Fabay eventually joined in on the mess, but they acquired turntables and set their sights on dance music of the sample-based variety, originally leaning on abstract hip hop and naming themselves the Avalanches. Trifekta Records released the Rock City single in 1997, which soon brought the interest of Australian label Modular. With a long-term deal freshly inked, they released the seven-track El Producto EP and polished their outlandish live show, including dates with the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy. Rex issued the Undersea Community EP in 1998, which culled from the band’s demo trove. Somewhere along the way, keyboardist James De La Cruz was added to the lineup.
An extensive patch of time was spent building Since I Left You, a 60-minute melting pot of the band’s collective that sounds like a postcard to anyone who has ever made a record. Released in their native land in late 2000 and preceded by the appetite-whetting Frontier Psychiatrist EP, it received a response from critics and the public that reflected the album’s glowing nature. The group even had the blessing of Madonna, who allowed them to sample the bass line to “Holiday” — the first time she okayed such a thing. Beggars Banquet-offshoot XL issued the album in the U.K. in May of 2001; Sire released it in the U.S. in November of the same year.