Lessons learned from The Avalanches’ live return

  1. Two’s company

Back in the early 2000s Avalanches’ live gigs were chaotic, frenetic affairs, as a five-piece band tried to replicate the group’s cut and paste sample collage on decks, drums, guitar and bass. For their live return at Primavera Sound — where they played two gigs, one on the open-air Ray-Ban stage at 3am and the other on the Sunday night / Monday morning at the Apolo — they were whittled down to two: Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi (with only Robbie doing the second show).

Quite how “live” it all was is open to interpretation: the duo essentially played a DJ set that was home to several of their own songs, with the characteristic samples from their iconic debut album Since I Left You sprinkled throughout. No one seemed ti mind though — both sets were ecstatically received and the band were one of the festival’s main talking points.

2. Expectations are feverish for their return

One of the defining characteristics of Primavera (and indeed Spanish festivals in general) is gigs that kick off at what are unimaginably anti-social hours for the Anglo consumer. The Avalanches proved no different, playing at 2.50am on Friday night / Saturday morning and 1.05am on Sunday night / Monday morning, a time when even the most enthusiastic fan of theirs might be considering the charms of bed after four straight nights of gigs. Both gigs proved massively popular, however, with Sunday night’s concert (a sort of kiss off / freebie for festival goers in the Sala Apolo venue in the centre of town) inspiring a 100-metre long queue all the way down Paral.lel as midnight loomed.

3. Is filter house the key to the new Avalanche sound?

The Avalanches’ comeback single Frankie Sinatra might be pretty faithful to the sound of Since I Left You, all hip hop beats and off-kilter samples, but judging by the Apolo gig, disco and house (and especially the French Touch / filter house sound) might be key to the band’s new album, Wildflower.

The Apolo set took in everything from Tullio De Piscopo’s disco classic Stop Bajon, to The Slits’ cover of Heard It Through The Grapevine to — of course — Frontier Psychiatrist but it was characterised by a housey shuffle throughout. In fact, if there was one song that seemed to epitomise the latter set, it was Ernest St. Laurent’s classic house remix of the band’s own A Different Feeling, taken from their 2001 Electricity EP, a song that adds metronomic house drums and lolling disco bass to the band’s sample-based melodicism. Admittedly, it might seem a bit far-fetched to judge a forthcoming album on a couple of DJ sets but the other Wildflower song released to the world so far, Subways, has a similarly disco / filter house sound.

4. Subways and Frankie Sinatra are massive

… and talking of Subways, while the response to the band’s new music has been mixed, both Subways and Frankie Sinatra were wildly received at these gigs, with the latter, in particular, inspiring the kind of ecstatic bouncing that you thought you’d left behind on the bouncy castle.

London’s Field day festival will be able to judge for itself this weekend (the band play there on Sunday June 12) but we’ll have to wait until July 8 for the release of Wildflower to see if an album that is home to both Danny Brown and Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue and was made over a 15-year period can make some sense.

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