It’s been a long (looong loooooooong) 16 years, but The Avalanches have finally dropped their highly anticipated sophomore album, Wildflower. This followed up their 2000 debut, Since I Left You, which was in itself a musical game-changer that altered the world of sampling and plunderphonics forever.
We look over some of the most influential, and iconic plunderphonics records of the past decade and a half.
Between then and now, however, a whole plethora of sample-based records have been released which built upon the archetype that The Avalanches had helped establish, easing the pain of the extended hiatus taken by the Melbourne-based sampling extraordinaires.
So, let’s take a trip down memory lane, and gaze back over four of the most monumental plunderphonics records of the past 16 years.
Daft Punk – Discovery
Less than a year after Since I Left You’s release, Daft Punk dropped their follow up to the sample-heavy Homework with a sound far more reflective of disco and garage house than that of their previous work.
While their debut did similarly undertake plunderphonics, the creative processes in Discovery are far more driven and intriguing.
One More Time in particular is such a departure from the original track (More Spell On You by Eddie Johns) that it took a 7-minute explanation video to prove that the two songs were even related.
Face To Face suffers a similar feat, with its Falling In Love and Evil Woman interpolations almost unrecognisable.
Many of the other tracks from the album are effectively modernized versions of their 70’s-80’s produced source material, including Aerodynamic, Digital Love and Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, with several production techniques used by the French duo to make the newer renditions their own.
Following Discovery, the duo’s plunderphonics work has, however slowed down, with their most recent work, Random Access Memories, containing only a single sample. This is a result of Daft Punk focusing more on quality collaborations, and live instrumentation.
Kanye West – Graduation
Kanye West is no stranger to the sampling game, using The Jackson 5 I Want You Back to create Izzo, which effectively became Jay Z’s first top 10 single as a lead artist. Six years later, two albums deep, Kanye released Graduation, a record more sample-driven than anything the rapper had ever previously been part of.
Mr. West does the practice justice, utilising elements of Elton John’s Someone Saved My Life Tonight for his intro track, and likewise transforming Michael Jackson’s P.Y.T. into a slow, melodic, rap jam on Good Life. It was the album’s second single, however, that caused the most speculation. Stronger’s heavy sampling of Harder Better Faster Stronger by French lords Daft Punk was condemned by many fans and critics alike, some going as far as labelling it a theft.
West and Daft Punk would then go on to perform together at the 2008 Grammy’s, simultaneously demonstrating their mutuality while force-feeding the haters a mound of humble pie. Graduation has since remained a commercial success, and has both lyrically and stylistically been cited as major influence for a new wave of hip-hop artists.
Girl Talk – All Day
All Day was the fifth and most critically successful album-length effort by Greg Gillis’ Girl Talk project, where 372 different songs within five different decades were creatively sampled, layered and compiled into a seamless 71-minute track, then separated into 12 individual episodes to effectively become an album in 2010.
Gillis has always been praised for his genre-blending abilities, and proved the skill once again on this record, highlights including Twista spitting over U2’s historic With Or Without You in On and On, Sir-Mix-A lot’s 80’s jam Posse on Broadway mixed with Rihanna’s icy tones in That’s Right, and the How Low Can You Go acapella by Ludacris perfectly syncopating over Phoenix’ 1901 (would’ve been nice when they played Good Vibrations together back in 2011, right?) in Triple Double.
Finding his stylistic peak when messing around with alternative rock and mainstream rap, Girl Talk brings together collaborations that many of us have only dreamed of, and considering All Day successfully raised the sales of many of the songs sampled (92.5% of them to be exact), I don’t think Gillis’ will be closing up the plunderphonics workshop anytime soon.
Jamie xx – In Colour
Just a year prior to Wildflower’s release, Jamie xx launched his first completely solo album, In Colour, which was both a transition away from his collaborative work, and a beautiful insight into the English producer’s own way of thinking.
Jamie uses samples from the 1950’s through to 2010’s, and sounds ranging from tracks, to spoken dialogue, to videos and documentary interpolations, which help create the core of many of his tracks.
Often he completely manipulates the songs into unidentifiable forms, the insertion of Belfast into opening track Gosh exemplifying this, as Jamie essentially converts the sound from acid house into a form of psychedelic trap.
The album vividly demonstrates Jamie’s ability to provide for the listener a glimpse into his life, and the journeys he has undertaken.
The track Obvs samples Japanese musician After Dinner and South African trumpeter Hugh Masekala, adds in a touch of steel drums, as well as Jamie’s own delicious touch of electronica, and results in a final product that in essence captures the cultures at hand, but still remains very Jamie xx. One could only assume that it was largely put together during his time in Japan and South Africa, likely while on tour.
While The xx have, as a group, created some of the most sample ready music, Jamie xx has, as a unit, created some of the most intelligently sampled music. Here’s to hoping In Colour is the first of many solo records to come.