Since this is the first post on my blog, I feel the need to share one of the truly essential albums in my life. Since I Left You, by The Avalanches.
When I think of a desert island record – that eternal question of ‘what single album would you choose to listen to for possibly the rest of your life, alone on a desert island?’ – the thing that strikes me most is the ‘alone’ part. More important than being lost and without civilized convenience, would be the brutal reality of abject loneliness. Thus, we have the key to understanding why Since I Left You is my choice..
This album is a maelstrom of sampling never before or since rivaled in scope and vision. Many artists since The Beastie Boys’ seminal Paul’s Boutique have aimed for sampledelic tapestries but few had the freedom afforded to the Beasties, since copyright policy would never be the same after their breakthrough album. Most music lovers probably assumed nothing so audacious would ever be released, especially as the recording industry went on the defensive about infringement and piracy (again).
But The Avalanches, after beginning as a more strictly hip-hop oriented unit and evolving through a series of singles, EPs, and live shows, threw caution to the wind – and seemingly, their entire vast record collections into the studio – when they dropped Since I Left You on an unsuspecting world in 2001.
The true reason this is my personal choice as the perfect antidote to loneliness has much to do with the fact that there are so many samples – so many varying voices, instruments, artists, themes, genres, connections, eras, just.. people – that every listen ends up filling me with the sensation of attending a dreamlike party. It’s one full of old friends, new acquaintances, family, strangers flitting in and out of earshot, and ghosts of those who came before yet linger still.
It’s a swirling, multi-layered, densely populated, sweet cacophony of sounds which requires many repeated listens to get a handle on. Deeply buried samples will pierce the veil of memory and evoke childhood, a favorite film, summertime.
This is a warm, welcoming, positive, revelatory experience, and feels like everyone’s invited, even on headphones. Especially on headphones.
Despite the sampling nature, the band crafts a distinctly narrative sound journey, in more than just a metaphorical sense: it’s truly a story about travel, and the restorative powers it can bring. As you may have guessed by the title, it is (in a way) a breakup album. Or to be more precise: a starting-over album. This is the sound of resolve, those first pounding footsteps on the way to a better place, a better life.
It’s the sound of healing, growing.. going somewhere. Not to get too sentimental, but it’s inspirational in the way the best dreams can be: not entirely clear or instructive, but nonetheless monumentally felt and reassuringly bright.
Aside from all my flowery praise, this is truly a classic party album, full of hip-shaking beats and a constantly shifting palate, acting as a single disc DJ to keep things interesting over it’s hour running time. Of course, everything The Avalanches have made is a prefab soiree, but that’s not the raison d’etre of this posting.
I have many reasons for loving this album; I just feel that most important would be the notions of solace and company it conveys to the solo listener. So go on.. Take a little journey.