Posts By Jackson Rumble

The History of the Avalanches (In Five Deep Cuts)

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The Avalanches

As you may have heard, the Avalanches (along with Spank Rock, HABITS and YOUNG TAPZ) have been parachuted into the 2017 Sugar Mountain lineup in place of Dev Hynes’ lauded Blood Orange project. As the chatter around the group’s much publicised hiatus and ‘triumphant comeback’ fades ahead of the promise of more new music and a run of high profile live shows, it’s easy to overlook the breadth of their discography. After all, the once five (or six… or seven) strong group began releasing music 20 years ago, and as unlikely as it sounds, at one stage in the early noughties, they could almost be considered prolific – especially if you count their fastidiously produced mixtapes and dj sets. So, without further ado, we present the history of the Avalanches in five deep cuts.

‘Thank You Caroline’

This is the B-side to the Avalanches’ first ever 7”, from 1997, and the first release for Melbourne label Trifekta (who would put out heaps of great stuff by artists like Architecture in Helsinki and the Go-Betweens). The A-side, ‘Rock City’, was reworked to appear on the El Producto EP, but ‘Thank You Caroline’ was a live staple performed in much the same form as it appears here. The song’s woozy organs and wistful tone would recur throughout the group’s discography; it’s basically the blueprint for Wildflower’s two closers (and standouts) ‘Stepkids’ and ‘Saturday Night Inside Out’. The song clearly resonated, too, earning a new lease of life with an Andy Votel remix on the ‘Since I left You’ single.

Electricity EP

This EP marked the Avalanches’ transition from noisey Melbourne rap brats to the electronic collage thing they’d be celebrated for after Since I Left You. A slightly reworked ‘Electricity’ would appear on that album, keeping Sally Seltmann’s operatic vocals and Daft Punk drum samples, but the fun and experimentalism showcased on the EP’s other tunes signalled an expansion of horizons. The EP was also the band’s first for Modular, heralding a distinct change in direction for the Sydney label. Until this point, Modular’s major releases came from acts like Ben Lee and the Living End. Electricity saw them begin leaning towards a much more electronic roster, and arguably fostering a new Australian scene in the process.


The B-side to ‘Since I left You’, this soft house jam coincided with the Avalanches’ stint as some of the most in demand party djs getting around. Presumably an outtake from their debut LP, it’s one of the group’s few productions that betrays their admiration for house producers like Ernest St Laurent and some of the gentler releases from Thomas Bangalter’s (Daft Punk) Roulé label. While their ‘Breezeblock’ dj mixes are still guaranteed crowd pleasers nearly 15 years on, this seven minutes of laid-back house paved the way for producers like Washed Out and Memory Tapes. If all tropical house sounded like this, the world would be a better place.

Belle & Sebastian – ‘I’m a Cuckoo’ (Avalanches Remix)

With the acclaim that followed the release of ‘Since I left You’, the Avalanches became in demand remixers for a number of du jour UK artists of the early 2000s, among them Badly Drawn Boy, Manic Street Preachers and the Concretes. This reworking of Scottish darlings Belle & Sebastian was one of the last remixes they’d do in this uncharacteristically prolific period, and was a clear display of their love affair with Caribbean soca music. At the time, one of the most striking things about this release was that the group had recorded live musicians rather than sampling them – samples having formed the bedrock of much of the band’s recent catalogue. Get the full story on this one via Wired.

‘Stalking to a Stranger’ (Planets Collide remix)

Released in 2013, deep within the band’s dormant period, what’s perhaps most remarkable about this tune is how little fuss anyone made on it’s release. Not only is it a certifiable ball tearer, but it does what any great remix should – reframe and highlight elements of the original material for a new audience. For a generation who only knew Hunters & Collectors from drunken singalongs and footy grand finals, this rework brings out the original’s groove and muscularity, the way it might have sounded live back in 1982.

The Avalanches play Sugar Mountain Festival’s Dodds Street Stage on Saturday, 21 January. Get your tickets here.

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Retiree – ‘Gundagai’

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In this new series, ‘First Impressions’, we’re going to subject a bunch of songs to the immediacy test – getting our contributors to review a track they’ve heard only once. In this round, Jackson Rumble takes a listen to the new single from Retiree.

Retiree have drunk the Arthur Russell kool-aid big time with their newest minimal dance pop jam, ‘Gundagai’. With this track the band firmly aligns itself with Andras Fox’s appreciation of esoteric new age Australiana (if the title didn’t give it away), and the video – African dude gyrating in front of lush fields and reclining on a lilo – and Awesome-Tapes-from-Africa-styled cassette art put us on a bus straight to the beach bar of your dreams.

Comprised of tasteful analog drum programming, frolicking fretwork, Casio keys and a crisp vocal that really is doing its best to channel Arthur Russell circa ‘Get Around to It’, ‘Gundagai’ is a very pleasant five minutes of tropical electronic pop. Although the song could see out its run time on the strength of the arrangement, these chaps reach for something of a climax and come off like they’re trying a bit too hard to coerce mum onto the dance floor. On the whole, though, that doesn’t diminish the fact that Retiree’s latest would be a welcome accompaniment to most sun-dappled cocktail hours.

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The amount of music floating around on the internet right now is verging on the incredible. About 12 hours of audio are uploaded to Soundcloud every minute. For the consumer, this is a pretty neat deal – there really does seem to be something out there for everyone these days. Plus we’re seeing unprecedented opportunities for collaboration and cross-fertilisation.

For musicians trying to pursue a career in pop music, however, there’s a serious problem: namely, how to get the attention of bloggers, DJs and other industry types who are, more often than not, clique-y and fatigued from sifting through reams of one-sheets for bands they don’t really care about.

Marketing, I’d like to think, can only get you so far. More importantly, you’ve gotta be able to write and produce a track that cuts through pretty much immediately. Of course, this approach is kind of a blunt instrument. There are always going to be songs that deepen significantly over repeated listens, and bands with more experimental or cerebral aims. For music like that, isolating a core audience is probably the most important first step. To really break through, though, something more dramatic is going to be required.

In this new series, ‘First Impressions’, we’re going to subject a bunch of songs to the immediacy test – getting our contributors to review a track they’ve heard only once. Kicking things off is Jackson Rumble (in a step up from his last attempt to review a track without having listened to it at all), with his take on ‘Sandy’, the latest release from Melbourne band Oh Mercy.


Straight outta the blocks you can tell this comes from a place that worships at the altar of respectable modern rock tropes. Driving kraut rhythms, tremolo’d guitar, analog strings, girl’s name for a title. And whatshisname of Oh Mercy has a timbre to his voice and a way with a lyric that actually makes you listen to what he’s saying. Two lines in and I kind of want to know what’s going on, and why this chap is so terrified of being alone.

There’s tension here, as we wait for the War on Drugs-style, head-out-the-car-window, flying-down-the-highway payoff. As he beckons her to “come closer”, begs her not to leave – the rhythm motoring along – I’m waiting for the payoff: in which Sandy either walks out the door or crumples into his arms.

But I feel like the song takes a mis-step in the bridge, applying the brakes rather than launching into the stratosphere, as the best Springsteen-esque guitar chuggers tend to. Nevertheless, it kept me hanging on, eager to know how it would end. And in fairness, the song resolves like most things in life probably do – with a wheeze rather than a bang.

You can catch Oh Mercy playing the Newtown Social Club in Sydney this Wednesday, 22 April, and Melbourne’s Gasometer Hotel on Saturday 25 April.

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LISTEN: White Shadows – ‘Give Up Give Out Give In’



Does anyone care about Craig Nicholls anymore? Some people used to, but I got the impression that the songs stopped coming out the same after he put down the orchy bottle. In more recent times, promo shots of a rejigged Vines have circulated, featuring Craig and a couple of fresh-faced Sydney fellas spruiking a new album, but it seems few people paid much notice. I didn’t. Sorry Craig, but it just seemed that by album number two you were rewriting the same couple of tunes over and over again (granted, they were good tunes) – and people switched off.

So… does anyone care about Craig Nicholls in 2015? It would seem that Nick and Sam Littlemore do – they of Pnau, Teenager, Peking Duk, Empire of the Sun and Elton John fame – which could be a real shot in the arm for our hero from Sutherland Shire. They’ve taken a bunch of Craig’s songs (ones that didn’t fit the latest Vines incarnation, which seems encouraging) and done their thing to them. I’m predicting anthemic synths, thin guitar licks, a huge, processed vocal surging over the top of some driving drum machines. The stuff that more than a few guilty pleasures are made of.

Which sounds like it could be alright. Well, at least more interesting than hearing Craig drawl his way though ‘Homesick’ part 7.

So here is ‘Give Up Give Out Give In’ by White Shadows. I have no idea how it sounds because I haven’t listened to it, but I dare say I’ll give it a go. Which is more than I can say for the last Vines album.


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