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Since I Left You

Year in, year out, hopes rise and rumours spread about a new album from The Avalanches. Yet, 14 years on from the group’s groundbreaking debut Since I Left You, hoards of hungry listeners are still starved for a follow-up. Despite the frustrating Guns N' Roses-esque delay, love for the iconic release certainly hasn’t dwindled.

A testament to the record’s enduring impact is Jonti and the Astral Kids’ three-night stint at this year’s Melbourne Festival. Basically, Jonti (full name Jonti Danilewitz) and the ten-piece Astral Kids orchestra aim to celebrate the glories of The Avalanches by performing Since I Left You in its entirety.
 
“The premise was to make it as if you were listening to the album, but it all had come to life,” Danilewitz says. “Anything that we could possibly do to make a part more live, we’d prioritise that. Then there’s some stuff you just can’t... We couldn’t really afford a horse [laughs], so we had to sample that stuff.”
 
These days, Since I Left You is a certified modern classic. Notable for its heavy use of sampling, the record masterfully integrates the sonic quality of 1960s pop with dance music. Upon its release in late 2000, it was a distinct anomaly. To this day, there’s nothing that sounds quite like it.
 
“A lot of what was popular at the time was like really big break beat stuff,” Danilewitz says, “like Chemical Brothers – all really massive sounding. [The Avalanches] just thought, well it’s not really their realm, so they’ll do their own thing. I think because they delved so deep into their own world it made this album so timeless.”
 
In case you’re wondering what qualifies Danilewitz to carry forth the legacy of Since I Left You, you needn’t look any further than his debut LP, Twirligig. Released to major acclaim in 2011, Twirligig is a work of playfully textured, sample-infused electronic pop, which owes significant debt to the innovative lead of Since I Left You.
 
“[When Since I Left You came out] I’d just come from South Africa and I was exposed to some music that they had on MTV that we had there,” Danilewitz says. “I remember enjoying stuff like Beastie Boys, Busta Rhymes, Beck – that kind of thing. It seemed to me when I got to Australia that was what was popular at the time, which was crazy. I was like, ‘Wow, it’s pretty cool here.’
 
Since I Left You just seemed like this gateway to this sample-based world, which would make more sense as I got older,” he adds. “I got more into sample-based production and record collecting and all that kind of stuff.”
 
While Since I Left You is lodged in the memory banks of listeners all around the world, recreating the 18-track sequence in a live setting is another story. The Avalanches themselves performed it live only a limited number of times and Danilewitz admits that formulating the onstage reenactment was a rather insane task.
 
“It was very scary to put together but it came to fruition in the end. When we initially did it, we had three months to do it. It was one of those things where it’s like, ‘OK, I’m committed, there’s no turning back, just go.’ I still have no idea what happened in those three months, how it came together.”
 
“I asked Robbie [Chater, The Avalanches] if it was all right to do the show and he said, ‘Yeah!’ then he was like, ‘Damn, that’s quite an undertaking’.”
 
When the show debuted at Sydney’s OutsideIn festival last October, the performance was such a success that Jonti and the Astral Kids (which includes singer-producer Rainbow Chan and electronic duo Polographia) were invited to appear at the Sydney Opera House in May. By now the ensemble’s had plenty of time to familiarise themselves with the record’s innumerable quirks, but Danilewitz says that performing it still ain’t no walk in the park.
 
“It happens so quickly when you’re on stage, but it’s really exhausting. Both times we performed it we had grand plans of partying afterwards and then after we performed we were just too exhausted and just couldn’t move.”
 
The three-night Melbourne Festivalrun ought to give the collective a chance to slip into a bit of momentum. Either way, being under the spell of the music itself isn’t an exhausting experience.
 
“The nature of the music is very energising. I used to listen to it to wake up in the morning and get energy. Luckily, I think we had the aid of performing very energetic music.”
 
It’s only natural that, after devoting themselves to such an enormous project, Jonti and the Astral Kids would be craving a reprieve from planet Avalanches. However, Danilewitz assures us that getting to know Since I Left You inside and out hasn’t dampened the record’s rewarding excellence.
 
“It’s amazing, I still put it on and enjoy it just as much as I did. Normally, if you deconstruct something and know how it’s put together, then it kind of loses its mysteriousness. But I don’t think anything like that has occurred with The Avalanches. I listen to it regularly and I’m still learning stuff from it too.
 
“I was expecting some sort of fatigue from hearing the songs over and over, but it’s just as fun – even to rehearse it and especially to perform it.”
 
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY 

SINCE I LEFT YOU featuring Jonti & The Astral Kids will rock the Foxtel Festival Hub on Friday October 10, Saturday October 11 and Sunday October 12 for three special shows this weekend. Hit up melbournefestival.com.au for tix and info.