Alex Pitt waited sixteen years, so was it worth it?
“Avalanches above, business continues below…”… Except On Wednesday, 2nd June, business did not continue below. I was at work, in my office with the site Senior Engineer, the door closed and my mobile phone tuned in to Triple J, giggling like school kids as we eagerly awaited Lewis Magnus McKirdy to finally spin THE track we had waited 16 years for.
The foreplay was over and The Avalanches were finally going to give me what I had been screaming for since they walked out of my life with the aptly named “Since I Left You”.
And 4:28 later, did I think the make-up was worth it? Well… no, and still somehow yes. I’d describe my feelings towards Frankie Sinatra by using a word that was brought into vogue not long after The Avalanches last released an album: I was ‘whelmed’.
Frankie Sinatra is not a banger. It isn’t meant to be one. Yet within four to five seconds of the beginning of the track I feel my heart rate rise as I hear little licks and tricks in the opening identify that this was, beyond doubt, the return of The Avalanches. The filter of a vinyl LP layered over the top of some atmospheric sounds (reminding me immediately of the introductory seconds of Frontier Psychiatrist) and period jazz gave a solid introduction to the polka beats of the horn section.
Then, unfortunately (after the upbeat enjoyment of the title sample, Frankie Sinatra), I lost of interest. The rhymes of Danny Brown didn’t sit quite as well with me after the introduction and jazz/polka horns and lyrics. His sections are juxtaposed greatly against the underlying sample track. This was in stark contrast to MF Doom’s deeper voiced lines in the second half of the track, which I thought suited the mood a lot better. This may be because I’m yet to be won over by the Danny Brown style twang-style voice and because I was brought into most rap and hip-hop through the English trip-hop of the nineties with Tricky, The Bristol Crew and their influences on Massive Attack and Faithless featuring heavily. MF Doom suits that style well; maybe, to paraphrase the naughties philosopher, Austin Powers: Danny Brown is “just not my bag, baby”.
Throughout Since I Left You there is a particular beat to the sampling. I’m not talking about the primary beat, the one to which you would tap your foot. I’m talking about a secondary beat at which the sampling would switch, fade or transition. This secondary beat, while not absent in Frankie Sinatra, seems to take a backseat and the song loses a little depth because of it. The rhymes of the two vocalists should have filled this hole, but for me, this sampling beat is such a quintessential part of what makes an Avalanches track, it still needs to be there, regardless of the guest artist featured.
All this may make it sound like I don’t like Frankie Sinatra, on the contrary, I enjoyed it. I did and I do. Throughout the afternoon I often found myself tapping my foot to the polka beat of the horns in my head and humming the title sample lines of the original calypso track from the 1930s to myself. But as I said before, this is not a banger. It’s not meant to be. It’s a taste, an hors d’oeuvre to the main course, the release of Wildflower on July 8th. And while this particular track doesn’t tick all my boxes, it leaves me confident that The Avalanches have not lost it. They’re still here and they still know how to dig 100-odd years into the music archives and re-invent with just enough seriousness and just enough fun to have you toe-tapping and humming your way through an afternoon.
Love The Avalanches? Check out Wildflower release info here.