The Avalanches


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The Avalanches


Attribute it to cultural isolation if you must, but much like famous Belgians, great Australian dance acts are few and far between. Sure, it has supplied a smorgasbord of gnarly rockers, but when it comes to visceral thrills, to joyous, discofied grooves, Oz's contribution has been negligible at best.

Which makes Melbourne's The Avalanches that much more precious. A five strong crew who function like a close-knit gang of rock mythology. They're a dance band with a grasp of pop's life-affirming élan, a pop act whose approach to dance incorporates hip hop's cut 'n' paste code, a bunch of wide-eyed dreamers who abide by their own rules.

Live therefore, as is their wont, they swap instruments, emphasizing their distaste for rock 'n' roll etiquette, while they eulogize such disparate talents as Neil Young, Wu-Tang Clan and Brian Wilson's co-writer on The Beach Boys' album Smile, Mr. Van Dyke Parks. It's this reluctance to adhere to dancefloor do's and don'ts that makes their debut album, the bewitching Since I Left You, such a glorious introduction to their madcap world.

Playful, twisted, psychedelic, sampledelic, delirious and infectious, it's the sound of five men who spent most of adolescence rummaging through bargain bins in Melbourne's record shops, constructing their own post-modern disco-pop amalgam from rubbish '50s rejects and saccharine '60s pop. "Our records make sense in their own world," says Robbie Chater, the group's baby-faced spokesman. "We always wanted to make a record with a life of its own that you could lose yourself in."

It was ever thus. When Robbie and his then flatmate, singer Darren Seltmann, decided to make music in the mid-1990s they were in thrall to Japanese punk band Ultra Bidet whose thrashy show Seltmann had seen while in New York, where he was the drummer in short-lived indie-rock group Ripe.

As, first, Swinging Monkey Cocks then Quinton's Brittle Bones (don't ask), Chater and Seltmann crafted their own take on trashy punk, culminating in them smashing up their kitchen and melting their freezer with a flame-thrower for, you know, a laugh. Slowly, with two long-term pals recruited to their ranks Tony Diblasi and Dexter Fabay - they swapped their tired two-string guitars for an array of samples, transmogrifying into an unlikely hybrid of The Fall and very drunk, innovative hip hop.

Their first single 'Rock City' / 'Thankyou Caroline' was released through a friend's label, Trifeka Records, and attracted the attention of Modular Recordings with whom they signed a long term deal. They soon released a new EP 'El Producto' and toured Australia extensively - including support slots with The Beastie Boys and Public Enemy - before settling down to begin working on and recording Since I Left You. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was their album.

Since then, in little over 18 whirlwind months, the band has enlisted keyboard player James De La Cruz, watched Dexter finish runner-up in the world DMC contest, remixed and put their own inimitable slant on Badly Drawn Boy's "The Shining" and Manic Street Preachers' "So Why So Sad" and have become in Chater's words increasingly "spastic" live, with James in particular earning a thumbs-up for "setting things on fire and pissing in rehearsal rooms."

Since I Left You was released in Australia November 2000, achieved both platinum sales and critical acclaim across the country. "Since I Left You" - the first single from the album entered the UK top 20 upon release in March 2001. The album followed suit, with a Top 10 UK Album Chart debut in April and was heralded as the countryıs "Album of the Month" by all major UK music publications. "Frontier Psychiatrist", the second single lifted from the album, entered the UK top 20 upon release. While the single thrilled radio listeners and jocks alike, the video clip accompanying the song has gone on to become an MTV smash across the UK and Europe and was recently voted into MTV's all time top 100 videos. It's no surprise that their debut album has gone gold in the UK and is charging onwards to Platinum.

Having conqured the Continent and Australia the Avalanches now set their sites firmly on North America where they've just penned a deal with Modular Recordings /Sire Records. Since I Left You is scheduled for a US release October 30th.

"Right now," says Chater, "I canıt put what we do into words." No? OK, allow me. The Avalanches - wizards of Oz. Fall (down) under their spell.