You would be excused for remembering The Avalanches’ 2000 debut, ‘Since I Left You’ as a sort of wonderful dream. As whimsical as the plucked guitar strings, the soft duuuuuuuh-duh-duhs, flutes, organs and serenading first lyrics to be sung on the opening track of the same name.
But for those with which it left a lasting impression on, it’s a dream no one has quite woken up from yet, and there’s good reason for this. Almost 15 and a half years since its release a follow up to the widely acclaimed album has never been heard.
The band themselves have only resurfaced from time to time, a few live performances here, a couple of DJ sets there, The Avalanches have made very little noise at all.
This hasn’t helped with the rumours of album 2. Year after year it’s “certain” it will be released, with some reports stretching as far back as 2007, and more before that too. It’s an indication of the impact ‘Since I Left You’ had, a completely unique sound which stemmed from not trying to compete with the electronic bands at the time, but paving their own routes into the speakers and hearts of music fans around the world. An album made up of samples, mixed from old records, TV, comedy and noises that just wouldn’t fit anywhere else, from the neigh of a horse to a ship’s fog horn. It’s repeatedly advertised that the record is made of some 3,500 samples, but those close to the band believe it to be more in the region of 4,000. It doesn’t take a genius to see the amount of work that must have incurred, what does take genius is making a record out of them all… The Avalanches everybody.
Rumours in 2007 were sparked by the release of a number of mixes, available to download directly from their site. Their source wasn’t questioned and contained all of the hallmarks of superbly crafted tracks from the Melbourne group.
Attached to the mixes were a few words seemingly straight from the band themselves, appearing as Site Admin under the name theavalanchesdotcom. It provided some real positivity regarding a follow up, that the group were cutting down from some 40 songs, underlining the fact that they existed, there was a real product after all this time. Yet not outlined in the message was when fans might expect to hear the release, while it also attempted to make clear that the newly available mixes were not representative of what the album would sound like, but rest assured it was claimed of the release:
“its so f*!%$n party you will die.”
It ends by saying:
” And one day when you least expect it you’ll wake up and the sample fairy will have left it under your pillow.”
It would seem that fairy is still taking its sweet time.
Many years and many more rumours later it became apparent in 2014 that some changes had been made to the line up of the band. Having lost a couple of members in the early 00’s, a little while after the release of ‘Since I Left You’, it was reported that in these more recent times, one of its founders Darren Seltmann was no longer part of The Avalanches, though no explanation appears to have been given and it was only made apparent quite some time after the departure.
At this point the group was a duo consisting of Tony Di Blasi and Robbie Chater, who themselves had been members from the very start. In 2015 however an update to their Facebook page suggested that James Dela Cruz had returned to the line-up and once more suggested things were progressing in the right direction.
The Avalanches’ presence on social media has provided a great deal of speculation to those waiting on news in these intervening years. One of the most eye-catching was an image uploaded back in May 2009, an illustration of a trash can, from which a rainbow stretches. At the time many thought it provided an indication of new album artwork.
Visually the image could be read as a reference to the working methods for album one. A piece of gold made up from what some effectively believed to be ‘trash’, in the fact that the majority of the album’s samples came from records and found materials in local op-shops (charity or thrift store).
Yet, with no words, a title or even the Avalanches’ name to be seen on the artwork and no description left by those who posted it, the image went down as simply another head scratcher.
An upload in 2012 again caught the imaginations of those who saw it, a far from straight cityscape of a smoky Manhattan. The off-balanced scene is reminiscent of the sinking ship which adorns the gatefold of ‘SILY’ and carries the nautical theme once more with this photograph seemingly captured from a ship on what is likely the East River, providing the foreground to a young, but ever iconic backdrop of New York City, including the Chrysler and Empire State buildings.
Further uploads to The Avalanches social pages consisted mainly of flashbacks to early touring days and album artwork for the mixes which appeared online as well as those released commercially. All had been quite since 2013, when we were asked to “honk if you liked the Beach Boys”.
April 11th 2016 and an upload sparks the biggest indication of an imminent return. And clearly the most welcomed.
Their most ‘liked’ and ‘commented’ image is this latest and with changes in social media in the last 15 years, it’s now broken the ice on their brand new Instagram. Unsurprisingly it hasn’t made its way onto the front of the band’s MySpace which has laid dormant for some time. Quite the similarity.
So what can we read from this image?
The depiction of the butterfly is significant. The insect is a representation of transition, another stage in its life from being a caterpillar. This reflects where The Avalanches are at now, a further stage in their musical journey, while also having to deal with a transition after losing members along the way.
It could also represent a different way of being, of working with the music. From rumours and stories it appears that album 2 will feature a number of guest vocalists perhaps singing over sampled tracks. ‘SILY’ was predominantly made up of sampled material only, so this butterfly could suggest a change in the way of operating when it comes to the production of the music.
One of the most notable things about this insect is the letter ‘A’ that appears on each wing, which we assume is of course a reference to the band’s name only. However, butterfly wings are noted for being identical on both sides, yet this doesn’t appear exactly so here. Perhaps this is simply down to manual nature of the stitching and as it is, reminds the viewer of the equally handmade effort and production which The Avalanches go through in making their music, once again underlining this image’s connection to the group.
The fabric (perhaps silk) on which this appears to be stitched, gives a visual suggestion of water (above). The reflective nature of the material with the lights under which the image was taken creates the illusion of waves crashing or small ripples. The theme of water (particularly rough in nature) was extremely prevalent in the album artwork for ‘SILY’, which used Fred Dana’s ‘Sinking of the U.S.S. Lincoln’ and has formed the basis for much speculation with any images uploaded featuring a somewhat nautical theme.
It feels important to also bring attention to the clear fact that the design has been applied to a black piece of material. Contrasted with the gold stitching it offers a sophisticated look, a combination of colours that speaks wealth. Yet it’s not pristine, it’s not laundered perfectly, leading back to the idea of The Avalanches creations being a little rough in places, yet something which unquestionably added to the character of the debut album.
With only this one full length LP behind them, if this butterfly was to form part of the album artwork, it could represent the first use of an original image for this reason too. It feels fitting that ‘SILY‘ also samples artwork in a way for its cover, though with seemingly more original content lined up for this coming release, it would also fit to have a more original idea to represent the second coming of The Avalanches.
Another thing which takes our attention is the high viewpoint, helping to reiterate the illusion of water created, portraying a bird’s eye view of this insect in flight and navigating its way.
It is this theme of navigation that appears quite important to the image. This is because along with the reveal of the design, it was announced there would be upcoming tour dates, all but one of which are away from their home island of Australia. Hence why this idea of carrying the name of The Avalanches across oceans becomes an easy link to make.
Referring back to this image which contained the three combined tour dates (above), more of the photograph is actually revealed. From this, in the bottom left, two bright lines or stripes appear. These show as more defined and more white than the other highlights and is reminiscent of the type of design you would see on a varsity jacket.
This reminds us that in many places a second release is often referred to as a sophomore album. Usually this term is used within the school, college or university setting of which such jackets are a popular trend. Should this all fall into place, we could also be looking at a sneak-peek of upcoming Avalanches merchandise.
Finally, one of the most obvious pieces of symbolism carried by the butterfly is the concept or effect which shares its name. The ‘Butterfly Effect’ is an idea of how a small thing can have a large effect. (The usual example given is of a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world, causing a hurricane on the opposite.) For Avalanches fans, this is similar to what they experienced with the release of ‘SILY’. An album that came out of nowhere, a lengthy and hardworking production but small in its cost and the anticipation ahead of release. Yet when that time came, it flapped its wings and clearly had a large effect as fans are still wanting more almost 16 years later.
This theory could also pre-empt the effect album 2 might just hold, after all we have been told that: “its so f*!%$n party you will die.”
Either way, for those that have been waiting, it’s the kind of hurricane they’ll be happy to get caught up in.
Though the image can be read into as much as we like, clearly it still carries with it no suggestion about new material forthcoming. Yet something is clearly going and while it’s still unsure if ’16 is bringing with it new material, resulting uploads did confirm that this will be the year of live appearances once more.
Only time will tell if this latest upload is of any significance or reference more specifically to the new record or even a title. Some of these possibilities have been shared previously however, in a tweet that appears to have been long deleted, possible LP2 names include: ‘On A Saturday’ or ‘Friday Night Fever‘. While some of the revealed guest vocals has brought with it some titles for tracks on the eventual release. One of these is a collaboration with Jennifer Herrema on the song known as ‘The Stepkids’ while rapper Danny Brown is lending his vocals to a track titled ‘Frank Sinatra’. Singer Ariel Pink also seems destined to appear on the record, however no name has been revealed for his collaboration.
So with very little detail, some of which has been floating around for years anyhow, along with the rumours that have done the same for even longer, it’s likely we’ll have to play the waiting game just that little bit longer. Understandably many fans won’t believe anything they see or hear until they have the follow up safely in their hands and playing through their speakers.
It would be a cliché to end by saying that we hope it’s worth the wait, but that can only be the thoughts of anyone on which ‘Since I Left You’ left an impression and, until we meet you, album 2, Seafront wish the band all the best in finishing what will hopefully be another defining record.