Did we ever really believe there would be another Avalanches album? It’s not only that it’s been 16 years since the release of Since I Left You, or that the group have reportedly been working on something since at least 2005, or the repeated promises of release dates that came and went with nothing. Did we ever really believe they would even attempt another such masterwork of crate digging and sampling?
But here we are now with Wildflower, the record that took two years longer to finish than Chinese Democracy, six years fewer than m b v, and which hasn’t even approached Smile — the record that it’s supposedly modelled on — in terms of being long-lost. What’s complicated about a band taking such a long hiatus when they’ve only released one full length is that there exists in our minds only one version of the artists. On this second outing, the Avalanches’ efforts to modify their technique has helped them produce familiar but not identical results.
Since I Left You was like when kids make paper in art class: They pulp down newsprint, odd materials, and shiny bits until they form a new sheet with only small fragments of the original materials identifiable. Wildflower is, comparatively, more of a patchwork. The pieces are stitched together seamlessly, but the components are wholly identifiable.
Wildflower follows a pop structure, relegating the freeform to brief snippets in favour of what are recognisably conventional songs. It’s meticulously sequenced to allow odd string arrangements, radio recordings, and found sounds to flow together with context. One listen won’t be enough to scrape the surface on the samples. It would barely be enough to identify all of the collaborators, a roster with MF Doom, Warren Ellis, Jonathan Donahue of Mercury Rev, and Father John Misty all making an appearance, giving Wildflower the vibe of an esoteric Gorillaz album.
The only thing Wildflower lacks is a track with the sheer what-the-fuck impact of 'Frontier Psychiatrist'. 'The Noisy Eater' — featuring Biz Markie rapping about cereal and a children’s choir singing the Beatles’ 'Come Together' — tries to fill the gap. Still, what-the-fuck by another name is novelty, and it’s for the best that novelty was traded in for the promise of the doo wop tropical holiday feel of 'Because I’m Me' and 'Sunshine'. And 'Frankie Sinatra' is almost guaranteed to be one of the songs of the summer, whether because of or in spite of the Sound of Music sample.
It’s strange recounting the years that the Avalanches have been gone, but the climate they’re being welcomed back into is perhaps more ready to receive them. Far from being frozen in time, Wildflower shows a willingness to move forward with a sense of personal history, but unhindered by obligations to it.
8Amanda Farah's Score