Avalanches | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Anyone with the right equipment and enough free time can create a new song out of bits and pieces of existing music--for proof, look no further than the recent glut of "mash-up" bootleg remix MP3s. But it takes real panache to get the balance right between familiar and obscure, between ready-made associations and new feelings. No record I can remember gets that balance righter than Since I Left You (Sire), the debut full-length from the Australian quintet the Avalanches (and the best album released in America last year). Composed of nearly 1,000 samples from more than 600 different records, it's filled with squishy, playful grooves that are agreeable and occasionally even luminous on first listen; keep playing it and the insanely fussy process of its assembly recedes into the background, revealing a surprisingly deep emotional core--you stop hearing samples and references and start hearing music and text. On the title track a helium-voiced woman croons, "Since I left you / I found a world so new," setting the tone for the album's breathless tour of its own Technicolor sonic universe: postdisco thump, downtempo fever dreams, kitschy ambient twitter, and on and on, all rendered as comfortable as cashmere by the album's resolutely mid-fi production. It's airy, not claustrophobic, and giddy with the endless possibilities of sound--like the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique rendered by Primal Scream circa their dub-happy, rave-kissed tune "Loaded." When the Avalanches loop someone muttering "Book a flight tonight" over a jittery electro loop ("Flight Tonight"), it's not just a depiction of predeparture anxiety but a promise that the music itself is about to take off for parts unknown. As you might expect of such hard-core used-record fiends, the Avalanches have also become famous for their DJ sets, several of which are Internet-trader favorites; that's the form this performance, part of the Area2 tour, will take. Among the band's best mixes are Gimix, which seamlessly slams Madonna's "Holiday" into Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," and their contribution to Cornerstone's promo-only monthly sampler series, which includes Ennio Morricone, Van Dyke Parks, Lord Kitchener, and Guns n' Roses. Thursday, August 8, 3 PM, DJ tent, Tweeter Center, I-80 and Harlem, Tinley Park; 708-614-1616 or 312-559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steve Gullick.

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