Glass talks to the cult electronic group The Avalanches

FORMED in 1997, The Avalanches arrived onto the Melbourne electronic scene with a sound that felt entirely their own. Their musical process was so unique at the time that no one had really come up with a name for it – but it involved stitching together samples to create rich, atmospheric soundscapes soaked in detail and colour. The music press eventually settled on the term ‘plunderphonics’, and soon after Tony Di Blasi and Robbie Chater became two of the hottest names in contemporary dance music.

Comprising over 3,500 samples across its sixty-minute run-time, their debut LP Since I Left You launched in fittingly grandiose fashion – on a now-legendary boat cruise party that passed through their hometown. Even at the time, it felt like a landmark release. There had been sample-led albums before – notably DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… – but nothing with the scope and craft of The Avalanches’ debut. Chater and Di Blasi found themselves in a league of their own, and talk quickly turned to how the duo would possibly come up with a sequel.

The process would prove to be even harder than either of them could have ever possibly imagined. Speaking to Glass Magazine, Di Blasi described how he “went through an emotional, personal hell” to get The Avalanches back up and running.

“After Wildflower (The Avalanches’ highly-anticipated and critically acclaimed second album), we knew we could never make an album like that again. The process of putting that many samples together came with so many difficulties, and the recording itself was a very solitary process, with the two of us locked in our rooms”. 

It does of course beg the question – why did The Avalanches ever choose to follow up their debut? As the years went by, Since I Left You took on an almost mystical aura – a true one-album wonder, too unique to be imitated and doomed to never be followed up.

“It’s pretty fucking cool, to be this mysterious band that only ever put out one album. But it got to the stage where I think everyone got sick and tired of all the hinting. It was suggested that we shouldn’t appear in photos, and our label and management would always be prompting us to do mysterious things”.

For the first time in their twenty-five year career,  The Avalanches today feel like a living, breathing life force. Their 2020 release ‘We Will Always Love You’, didn’t require the same torturous process as ‘Wildflower’, but enjoyed comparable success – winning the highly-coveted Australian Music Prize earlier this year.

“We made a conscious decision not to go through sixteen years of production again. We used to wait ten years just to find the perfect vocal sample for a song – this time around, we could just get in contact with an artist and ask them to come up with something for us. It made the process so much smoother – we would generally get something back within a week!”

What eventually transpired was an album teeming with rising stars and bona-fide industry legends – including The Clash’s Mick Jones, Johnny Marr, Rivers Cuomo, Jamie xx, MGMT and Denzel Curry.

“As a personal experience, it was incredible to work with those artists. I spent some of the best days of my life working in the studio with them. It wasn’t just about putting together this hit list of people we wanted to work with, though – with each song, we gave a lot of thought to who we felt would song good on it”.

The album that kicked it all off.

“Denzel Curry in particular was pretty amazing – he turned up to the studio having never heard the track before and just started freestyling over the top of it. After about 20 minutes he laid down these incredible lyrics, telling a really vulnerable story about horrible times in his life. It was free from any bravado, really pure. After one perfect take, he stood up and said ‘I’m going back to the hotel to play Mario Kart’. An amazing, amazing dude!”.

“Rivers Cuomo was another funny one. He sent us back a spreadsheet with four different options and asked us which one we wanted. Eventually, we played around with three different melodies, and they were all so great we asked for them all! When Weezer played in Melbourne we spent the day with him walking around the city, and eventually ended up talking about meditation for about an hour in a Starbucks. It was so Rivers – he’s a very eccentric dude!”

After years shrouded in mystery, it seems that The Avalanches are finally ready to fulfil their limitless potential. Their latest video, for single We Go On, featuring nu-disco artist Cola Boy and The Clash’s Mick Jones, is out now:


by Daniel Jeakins