Album Review: The Avalanches – Wildflower
July 12, 2016
Picture this: artists creating elaborate sound compilations stitched together with fragments of other people’s records. This kid’s, is what we call plunderphonics (aka turntablism); a genre built specifically from digging through crates of artifacts. From the likes of DJ Shadow to Cut Chemist to The Avalanches, we can thank these mixing maestros for having the artistic ability to manipulate and proliferate sound and turning it into a story.
A mere 16 years after the Avalanches’ groundbreaking debut, Since I Left You, the Australian DJs have returned with late bloomer Wildflower. Their sophomore release is a diverse and heavily-infused work of art filled with perfectly sampled and assembled sound recordings the trio has collected over years.
The album enters with a short interlude, followed by “Because I’m Me” whose opening sets the tone for the whole album: exuberant vocals from Honey Cone’s 1971 “Want Ads” and Camp Lo’s celebratory rhymes lend for an innocent charm.
Before its release, The Avalanches released “Frank Sinatra,” which was instantly reminiscent of the Gorillaz “Clint Eastwood.” The brassy, old-school hip hop lead single features Danny Brown and MF Doom throwing verses over a cartoonish mix that’s dispersed over 1930s calypso singer Wilmoth Houdini.
Besides their keen attention to detail, saturation of loaned sounds and intricate groove spacing on record selection, what sets the Avalanches apart is their sweet sense of nostalgia and wistful melancholy by bringing thousands of pieces of dusty vinyl back to life. Subtle hints of antiquity resonate with us, making it seem so familiar while also inhabiting new territory.
A handful of tracks receive lavish pieces of orchestration by film composer Jean-Michel Bernard. Where arranged instrumentation flows cohesively throughout; such as tracks like “Colours” and “Harmony” which features Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue and “If I Was a Folkstar” featuring Toro y Moi and samples Queens Of The Stone Age’s “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire.” Respectively, these demonstrate The Avalanches’s more experimental side.
Halfway through the album and we begin to sense some 90s laidback hip-hop with tracks like “Live a Lifetime Love” which juxtaposes between psychedelic 60s pop and hip hop theme. “Noisy Eater” which features Biz Markie’s comedic verses, complimented by the crunching sounds of breakfast cereal, and a youthful rendition of The Beatles’ “Come Together.”
David Berman’s spoken-words and Father John Misty’s faint vocals on “Saturday Night Inside Out” gives my mind instant images of Trip Fontaine and Lux Lisbon from the 1999 film The Virgin Suicides. The track puts you in a psychedelic dream-state, and in respect to the album’s name, makes me feel like I’m sitting in a field of wildflowers.
There’s a weirdly common misconception about long-awaited albums; artists leave us wondering if they’ve disappeared, will they ever come back, and if they do, WTF should we expect on their return. But in truth, these long-awaited amazing albums actually take that long to create. Wildflower is cohesive on all fronts that we don’t even consider the amount of time and effort it takes in creating this piece of art. When in this day and age sample-based music is so relevant; the album remains fresh and current. The album strays away from the norm and makes the attempt to find something new in the past, making it an ecstatic whirlwind of joy to listen to.