The Avalanches Finally Come Into Bloom On “Wildflower”

Admittedly the utopian promise of a follow up to The Avalanches‘ Since I Left You seemed a little too good to be true.

With radio hype, a killer promotional video and the seldom flexed muscles of major label marketing pushing the album, sceptics could be forgiven for their apprehension. The presence of MF Doom and Danny Brown on leading single Frankie Sinatra seemed a logical introduction to a new generation of music fans, but for many the track was a lacking, especially after a decade-plus wait.

Colours revealed more of what was to come but did little to allay concerns that Wildflower might fall too deeply into the shadow cast by the ambrosial sampladelica of its forebear. Subways’ call-backs re-invoked the delirious dreamscape of its antecedent but teased the distressing prospect of a rehash.

Yet after 16 years of speculation, The Avalanches have more than made good on their promise of a worthy follow-up. There’s no shortage of excellent material on the album and by the time fifth track Going Home rolls around, its swinging dance pulse and the warmly nostalgic sampladelica sees the album hit its stride.

The density of Since I Left You is retained and the lovingly crafted sonic collage returns. If I Was A Folk Singer and Harmony completely dissolve any misgivings that this second outing is anything but worthwhile. With blissful hip-hop rhythms and ambient production, they bridge a 16-year gap without a modicum of effort.

Yet it’s the overtly psychedelic forays of the album’s B-side which cements its status. The raga interlude of Park Music bridges into the floating dreamscape of Livin’ Underwater (Is Something Wild). While the album may not lead off as strongly as Since I Left You, there’s little question that by the time this acid-dazed narrative reaches a close that Wildflower achieves the otherworldly sonic cohesion of The Avalanches’ signature sound. Despite the saturation of lovingly borrowed sounds, there’s a balance between nostalgia and novelty which other sampling-heavy productions either struggle to achieve or miss completely.

Continuing to delve into the depths of crate-diving obscurity Sunshine reimagines the vocals Leave It All Behind Me by obscure ’70s trio The Fuzz into hypnotic orchestral swirls. Lightup’s waltzing doo-wop ushers in the climactic euphoria of Kaleidoscopic Lovers, pushing the giddying heights of dreamlike fantasy. Stepkids returns to earth with an invitingly off-kilter sing-along. A lavish recreation psyche-folk sensibility, it’s perhaps the only time Dirty Three founder and Nick Cave collaborator Warren Ellis might find himself alongside Royal Trux‘ Jennifer Herrema.

The terms ‘mix-up’ and ‘plunderphonics’ often connote nightmarish visions of mismatched sound, but here The Avalanches challenge these notions to the core. This artful soundscaping couldn’t be further to the contrary. As with Since I Left You before, Wildflower weaves an all-enveloping sonic reality of its very own.

There’s little question that this time around the group have been experimenting with more prominent vocal contributions, but tracks like Zap! are reminders of an underpinning textural oddness which defines the group’s sound. Detuned brass melodies sinking into the oceanic nostalgia demonstrate that it’s this proclivity for depth and subtlety that drives this music. The Noisey Eater and Wildflower verge on becoming jarringly absurdist at first instance, but there’s a grandiose irreverence to the songs that may yet match Frontier Psychiatrist.

The unanticipated impact and novelty of Since I Left You may not be here this time around and 16 years of legend may not have been woven around this album, but the ambrosial production, mosaic of sonic elements and The Avalanches’ distinctive approach to sample-based music speak for themselves.

By the time the expansive ambience of Saturday Night Inside Out (featuring a shamanistic recital by Father John Misty’s J. Tillman) draws to a close, this album will have even the most ardent holdouts on board. The disparate array of the album’s sampling will be preying on the minds of obsessives for years to come.

You can stream Wildflower in its entirety on Apple Music now.

Wildflower is out now on Modular, Astralwerks, XL and EMI. Catch The Avalanches at their only Australian show at this year’s Splendour In The Grass.

Image: Imgur