BEFORE we get into this, let’s establish one thing; Since I Left You came out 16 years ago. Yes, it’s a classic, but let’s not dwell on the past. The entire musical landscape has changed since 2000, so can we really expect The Avalanches to replicate the exact sound of their debut? Hell, would they even want to?
So anyway, here’s Wildflower, the long awaited sophomore album by Australian plunderphonics trio The Avalanches, 16 years after the release of their debut. Whereas Since I Left You worked with very electronic, hip-hop based sampling, Wildflower moves slightly away from that territory. For one, there are actual features on this record, including great verses from MF Doom and Danny Brown on ‘Frankie Sinatra’ and a kind of lacklustre appearance from Toro y Moi on ‘If I Was A Folkstar’. Secondly, Wildlfower feels incredibly colourful and energetic, kind of like if The Beach Boys did instrumental hip-hop. It’s upbeat, yet still keeps to the Avalanches’ trademark ‘silly’ nature.
But Wildflower is not necessarily an easy listen. This thing is 21 tracks long, something that acts as both a strength and a weakness. There are standout tracks like ‘Frankie Sinatra’, ‘Subways’, ‘Colours’ and ‘The Noisy Eater’ which work great by themselves, but then there are tracks which literally are filler. ‘Going Home’, ‘Park Music’, the title track; if you listened to these by themselves, it would be quite a dull experience, filled with background noise and birdsong. But The Avalanches use this to make an actual album; an album that will take you on a journey from beginning to end and that flows seamlessly. Now, admittedly, the last third of this record perhaps lacks the ‘hit factor’ of the first two, but still holds its ground with some enjoyable ambient work.
But when it comes down to the music itself, this album is really quiet blissful. It’s like a sunny day written as a record, with a real Californian Surf vibe. The Avalanches once again prove to be the kings of sampling, with some great work here that makes even the most unsuspecting samples come alive. While some of the quieter tracks pass by without ceremony, the tracks that do hit the spot hit it well. The instrumentation feels organic and wonderful, with even the more ambient features holding a quirky Indie vibe that’s really quite lovely. The features are also a nice addition, and while some really don’t bring much to the album, those that do really bring something new to the music, help it advance on from the past.
It’s also nice to see surprising elements within the music that one might not expect the Avalanches to take. For example, closing track ‘Saturday Night Inside Out’ features some spoken word vocals from Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty. Lead single ‘Frankie Sinatra’ has almost a calypso beat, while ‘The Noisy Eater’ has cereal as its main topic. I mean. we all knew that the band was eccentric, but did anyone really see that coming?
Wildflower is, on its own, a really pleasant, enjoyable summer record that, while not perfect, is certainly a step in the right direction for The Avalanches. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take another 16 years for them to release another record, because if Wildflower proves anything, it’s that the band is still capable of creating great music. And with that, they leave the listener hungry for more; much more.
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