Two albums to listen to: A couple of sample-based records

Chris Duncan

Since I Left You – The Avalanches

Electronica group The Avalanches formed in 1997 and rose to fame quickly, supporting the Beastie Boys and Beck on tour without ever releasing an album.

After a couple years of work, The Avalanches released their debut album, Since I Left You. The group of former schoolmates had a distinct vision for their first album — keyboardist Robbie Chater described the initial workings of the record as concept album about an international search for love. After the group decided they didn’t want to make their themes obvious, they scrapped the idea, but bits and pieces of this central theme still lie in several tracks.

Chater estimates that Since I Left You was assembled from about 3,500 vinyl samples, and the intense dedication to detail shows in each song. There’s a distinct lack of bass, which went against the grain for dance music at the time, but the album retains a light-hearted outward sound. Each track contains its own innocence in discovery of identity, but a close examination of each song reveals a much deeper meaning to decrypt.

After releasing Since I Left You, The Avalanches fell off the map. Their unreleased second album has been in the works since 2005, but occasionally rumors pop up concerning the group’s future.

Tracks to listen to: “Since I Left You,” “A Different Feeling,” “Frontier Psychiatrist”


Donuts – J Dilla

As one of hip hop’s most admired and innovative producers, J Dilla knew a good sample when he heard one.

Made in both his home studio and a hospital bed, Donuts was released three days before J Dilla’s untimely death on Feb. 10, 2006. After his death, rumors about possible hidden messages in each track swirled.

In all likelihood, Donuts didn’t contain any ulterior motives or messages — it feels more like Dilla playing with the minds of his listeners than trying to create a deeply emotional project. Most of the tracks are at most 90 seconds long, but each one creates a lasting impression in a short amount of time.

After multiple listens, what might have initially come off as a scattered endeavor comes together to form a 44-minute record filled with happiness. Donuts isn’t breaking new ground or defining a new genre, but it reflects the personality of its creator perfectly.

Tracks to listen to: “Workinonit,” “Time: The Donut of the Heart,” “Last Donut of the Night”