Top positive review
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don't believe the unbelievers.
on 19 July 2001
it seems that some listeners can't quite comprehend the concept behind the avalanches' thrilling debut album, since i left you.
upon hearing a sample that (shock! horror!) they might have heard before, they immediately label the band lazy, for 'not digging deep enough' into the crates, or even more laughably, unoriginal, simply because sampling is used at all.
i dare them to listen to the 'gimix' bootleg tape that was circulating long before the album was ever released: not only does it contain the 'obvious' samples used in the album itself, but bob dylan, cyndi lauper, jimi hendrix, de la soul, the beatles, the smiths, deee-lite and a whole host of unbelievably big names make appearances... huge chunks of their biggest hit singles are audaciously and very deliberately included.
the point is, these songs, and the samples in 'since i left you' are not chosen in order to steal the original artists' thunder. on the contrary, the avalanches are paying homage to music that they love and revere. of course, in the end, it's not what they use, it's how they use it. be prepared to be blown away as jimi hendrix's 'crosstown traffic' is mixed with cyndi lauper's 'girls just wanna have fun' as though it were the most natural thing in the world. stand, mouth agape, as sgt. peppers, sped up, is played hand in hand with 'groove is in the heart', and jurassic 5's 'jayou'.
similarly, the well known (and some might say, tired old) tunes sampled on the album itself are treated in a fresh, refreshing, magical and totally inspired way. many are unrecognisable. for every well known pop tune sampled, ten equally obscure ones also appear - the instant-recognition tunes don't take precedence over the unknowns - all are included with the same reverence, and all flow beautifully together to create a unified, deeply soulful, infinitely detailed and textured whole. the avalanches aren't trying to trick us into thinking they played all the instruments on the album and wrote it from scratch. that's not what 'since i left you' is about at all. they are not divorcing the sampled sounds from their original context. using snippets from well known songs is not lazy - it's very brave, in this climate of zero-tolerance litigation.
why would madonna let her music be sampled for the very first time if the avalanches were simply going to use it in a derivative, vacuous, 'p-diddy' style? in fact, the 'holiday' sample serves almost as an atmospheric backdrop, just like the sampled seabird calls and cheers - it's as though there's a party happening somewhere on the 'since i left you' cruise liner, and you're invited.
accusations of 'bad mixing' and 'sounds terrible' are equally hollow. this album is mixed beautifully - not saccharinely and blandly, but piquantly, with just the right dissonant kick. it sounds terrific. if you haven't already, buy it.