Album Review – Wildflower by The Avalanches

Wildflower, the belated sequel from the Avalanches, is a unique project to say the least. Arriving sixteen years after their landmark 2000 album Since I Left You pioneered the plunderphonics genre – the mass use of sampling to create something new and wholly different – and reportedly in the works since 2005, it is a rather obvious statement that a lot of expectations were placed on this release. On top of all this, it is arriving at a time where that style of music has become public enemy number one within the industry, in an era where lawyers are furiously attacking or defending every aspect of a song for copyright purposes. With all of that in mind, it is with a sigh of relief that their long-awaited album sticks the landing instead of falling into failure.

With such a large gap between albums, the band could not just repeat themselves to the letter. Yet, any drastic experimentation is a risk with the prospect of derision from fans and critics alike. With Wildflower, they have added guest vocalists for the first time. Ranging from rappers like Danny Brown and MF DOOM (sharing double duty on Frankie Sinatra), to singers like Toro y Moi (singing about his LSD trip with his wife on If I Was a Folkstar) and Jonathan Donahue of Mercury Rev, as well as contributions from violinist Warren Ellis, Father John Misty, and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. While that might sound like a lot to take in, each feature feels vital and essential to the track without taking anything away from the pop wonderland the Avalanches have created.

Where Since I Left You ventured more in the realm of 24/7 partying with dabs of psychedelia, Wildflower takes that psychedelia and runs it into nonstop euphoric heights over the albums twenty-one tracks. While that seemingly endless saccharinity may get tiresome to select listeners, they would be ignoring the layered and creative use of samples from across the spectrum of recorded sound. Given its predecessor’s reputation for having literally thousands of samples, that is more than enough reason to come back for another listen. The Avalanches prove once again they have absolute mastery over the sample as they twist, bend, chop and splice it to fit it on their loopy carnival ride. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the standout The Noisy Eater featuring an enthusiastic Biz Markie, which combines an old cereal jingle with an excerpt of a Jerry Lewis stand-up and a children’s choir performance of Come Together. These Australian DJs are able to take these disparate elements and make them sound as natural extensions of one another in a bid for lunacy.

A natural consequence of mass sampling is that the album ends up feeling more like a collage, especially in comparison to Since I Left You, which was constructed as one large suite where songs blended into each other. As a result, Wildflower can occasionally feel like a series of interludes on repeat listens as songs have been created wholly individually. However, that amounts to a minor quibble on an otherwise excellent album that both serves as a worthy successor and manages to expand on the established formula in order to stand distinct from its forerunner.

4/5

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