Australian electronic duo, The Avalanches, returned with their third studio album, ‘We Will Always Love You’, back in December. For an ultimate escapism, the duo tackled a precise sonic realm that is tightened to a certain level of craft for their most natural sounding release yet.
Less reliant on samples and more focused on themselves, the duo are revived, and shed more light, and clarity onto their vision. The album is guest heavy, ranging from the likes of Jamie xx and MGMT to Denzel Curry and Dev Hynes, and was the essential record to end the year that was 2020, and to ring in the new year that is 2021.
CTRL caught up with The Avalanches to talk about their new album, with all responses from Tony Di Blasi.
The album was said to be inspired by cosmos, so how would you say the album brings that concept to life?
We started off exploring our own personal introspection. Like ‘who we are,’ ‘what we’re made of,’ and questioning our own place in the universe. And from that we expanded into the cosmos that is really our home. We also became interested in transitions and as sample artists we can sample someone who has passed on and that by using their vocal, it’s like we’re summoning the spirit and giving it a new life.
We used lots of static and radio signals throughout the record. We sampled YouTube videos of people using these “spirit” boxes that would produce a static signal and a medium would intemperate that signal as the voice of someone passed. We found one that would summon Karen Carpenter using this process.
What were the biggest takeaways in terms of your approach to this record compared to the previous ones?
I think with this record we went back to making music the way we did for Since I Left You. With Wildflower, we became way to weighed down in process. We’d sample and catalogue them and put them away in a labeled folder. 1000’s off them. It was a weird way to work. This record we got back to finding a sample and making a song from that straight away, instead of putting it away. It was a lot more inspired way to work. We also had so many amazing collaborators that provided such talent that made this record feel like a breeze to make.
You guys talked a lot about a sense of creative freedom going into this record. How would you say it resonates with the listener and how can they notice that?
I think coming out of the time consuming and laborious way we worked on Wildflower, there was just a lightness about this record and the process of making it. We were in a good headspace and were just excited to write. We kept saying to each other to just follow our hearts, to search for something that makes you feel something. That’s very important to us and we think these intentions comes across to the listener with the feedback we’ve been given so far.
How much of the album was completed before the pandemic? Where was it recorded?
Most of the record was recorded before the pandemic and lockdowns hit. Lucky for us because it was quite an uninspiring time during lockdown. It was recorded in our own home studios and at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles. We recorded Leon Bridges, MGMT, Pink Siifu, Cornelius, John Carol Kirby there and mixed there as well. It’s a pretty legendary studio with a great history.
What is the connection between the album artwork and the title with the record itself?
We came across this wonderful story of Anne Druyan and how she was compiling the golden record which was to be attached to the Voyager space craft in the hope that intelligent life might one day and get an idea of life on Earth. It had greetings in different languages, whale sounds, a mother talking to her baby, just various things that were representative of life on earth. She thought it’d be a great idea to also record her brainwaves and heartbeat so if ever found, the record could also include a snapshot of human biology.
A day before she went in to get them recorded, Carl Sagan proposed to her. So as she was having her heart and brainwaves recorded, she was meditating on the wonder and power of love and how a young woman’s heartbeat and brainwaves madly in love would be recorded and last for 1 billion years. We thought it was such a romantic and beautiful story. One that encapsulated the best of human experience and when we found the Roaches sample that had the lyric “We Will Always Love You” in it we felt like it was the perfect title for the record and that Anne’s image being on the record tied it all in so well.
There’s a lot of interesting collaborations on this record. What’s the process like determining which artists are the perfect fit for a certain song?
We’ll have the beginnings of a song. The sample and some chords and then just listen to it for a while and try to imagine whose vocal would sound good over it. Sometimes we’ll sample say for example, a Tricky song and lay it over the track to see how the tone of their voice will fit in with the track. Then from there we’ll reach out to the artist and see if they’d be up for working on the track together. Depending on the artist and situation, it can be quite a collaborative process or one where we’ll just get their vocals back and haven’t had much input. Most were very collaborative with lots of emails or time in the studio together.
The record does involve quite a few exciting new artists. How do you keep up to date with all the fresh talent in this ever so changing industry?
We try keep in touch by listening to as much new music as we can. It’s good to keep your finger on the pulse and have a good idea of the what’s happening in music. Discovering great new musical acts is still such a great joy!
Is that Frank Ocean saying “1, 2” from his “Moon River” cover sampled on “Born To Lose”? If so, how did that happen and how did you get it cleared?
We’ve been sworn to secrecy regarding the disclosure samples! So unfortunately I will not be able to answer this question!
There you have it! While you’re here, revisit the CTRL shortcut ‘We Will Always Love You’ album review, and listen to the album below: