Never mind digging in the crates -- the Avalanches probably just buy them whole, sight unseen, and find a way to bounce off each platter. Eventually morphing into a gang of six merrymakers bent on filtering their all-encompassing record collections through original instrumentation and a great deal of sampling, the Avalanches came from one of the most unlikely places to generate mind-bending dance music -- Australia -- and in 2000 released an album, Since I Left You, that became a timeless classic. Perfectly fitting with the band's range, the roots of the crew are in punk. Robbie Chater and Darren Seltmann were in a couple of short-lived outfits together, most notably the Swinging Monkey Cocks. Gordon McQuilten, Tony Diblasi, and Dexter Fabay eventually joined in on the mess, but they acquired turntables and set their sights on dance music of the sample-based variety, originally leaning on abstract hip-hop and naming themselves the Avalanches. Trifekta Records released the Rock City single in 1997, which soon brought the interest of Australian label Modular. With a long-term deal freshly inked, they released the seven-track El Producto EP and polished their outlandish live show, including dates with the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy. Rex issued the Undersea Community EP in 1998, which culled from the band's demo trove. Somewhere along the way, keyboardist James De La Cruz was added to the lineup. An extensive patch of time was spent building Since I Left You, a 60-minute melting pot of the band's collective influences that sounds like a postcard to anyone who has ever made a record. Released in their native land in late 2000 and preceded by the appetite-whetting Frontier Psychiatrist EP, it received a response from critics and the public that reflected the album's glowing nature. The group even had the blessing of Madonna, who allowed them to sample the bassline to "Holiday" -- the first time she okayed such a thing. Beggars Banquet offshoot XL issued the album in the U.K. in May of 2001; Sire released it in the U.S. in November of the same year. They followed it up with two singles taken from the album, "Since I Left You" and "Radio," that were filled with remixes by the likes of Stereolab, spiritual forefather Prince Paul, and Cornelius. In the years that followed, the album's reputation grew by leaps and bounds, whetting people's appetite for a follow-up album. What they got instead was an intermittent stream of remixes over the next few years (for Belle and Sebastian, Manic Street Preachers, Franz Ferdinand, and others) until 2007, when the group seemed to disappear, leaving only the rumors of a new album that popped up every couple years. In truth, they had begun working on a new album that over time expanded to 40 songs. Nothing album-like was ever finished, though, and the Avalanches spent their time on other projects, like scoring a King Kong musical and working on an animated film that never saw the light of day. Finally, in 2016, the band (now down to a core of Robbie Chater and Tony Diblasi) announced that a new album would be coming later that year. To the delight of their long-suffering fans, Wildflower was indeed released in July and featured guest appearances by Mercury Rev's Jonathan Donahue, MF Doom, Danny Brown, Toro y Moi, and Father John Misty, among others. ~ Andy Kellman
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Rock - Released October 27, 2009 | Rhino - Warner Records
"Question: What do surfers do when it snows? Answer: they go ski surfin'!" That bit of copy offers nearly all the explanation necessary for this one-shot instrumental rock album, which attempts to create a cold-weather counterpart to the surf sounds that were all the rage when this was recorded in 1963. Judging from these dozen tunes, Ski Surfin' wasn't all that different from the seaside variety, with the favored music dominated by a wall of sharp, twangy guitars and a tight, percolating rhythm section, though the presence of pedal steel guitar and electric piano on some cuts does set this apart from standard-issue surf fare. Beyond the curious concept, what makes Ski Surfin' most memorable is the presence of a handful of top players on the Los Angeles studio circuit -- drummer to the stars Hal Blaine is behind the traps, legendary session guitarists Billy Strange and Tommy Tedesco handle the six-string chores, and David Gates, who wrote a handful of girl group hits before hitting pay dirt as the leader of Bread in the '70s, plays bass. Outside of a few recognizable melodies such as "Baby, It's Cold Outside," "Midnight Sun," and "Winter Wonderland," most of Ski Surfin' consists of "original" songs that could well have been written an hour before recording began, but the musicians on board deliver their typical fiery licks throughout, and while this is no lost classic of instrumental rock, it's a pleasing oddity for fans of '60s surf stuff who enjoy hearing some top-shelf players on a lark. ~ Mark Deming
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