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Album Review: The Avalanches ‘Wildflower’

Review by William Lehrer.

The musical world looked a lot different in the year 2000. Radiohead ended rock music with Kid A while it was brought back in the form of a major label bidding war for a young Strokes. 2000 also saw the release of Since I Left You, the debut album from Australian plunder-phonics group the Avalanches. The album’s extensive use of samples provided classic cuts such as the title track, Frontier Psychiatrist, and A Different Feeling. The album garnered award after award and was heralded as a modern day classic by everyone from Triple J to Pitchfork. But after that, nothing.

That is of course until about a month ago when a fake movie trailer shared on the Avalanches social media accounts alluded to new music for the first time in 16 years. The trailer, which included collaborators Danny Brown and Father John Misty, actually came to fruition and here we are a month later… with Wildflower. The album plays as a sequel but more like a Ghostbusters 2 than a Godfather part II. One would figure that they would have given us something different after 16 years of waiting (the only real changes are guest vocalists and a slight hip hop leaning). It doesn’t have the same novelty of Since I Left You, however it still provides an immensely satisfying listen that is truly, “better late than never”.

‘Frankie Sinatra’, the album’s lead single gave fans their first glimpse. The song, which features high profile guest verses from Danny Brown (who kills it) and MF Doom over a sample-heavy calypso beat, has little resemblance to the rest of the album. It’s an odd song (with an arguably annoying chorus) that smells of bath salts more than the ecstasy, which pretty much characterizes the rest of the album. That ecstasy is much clearer is both ‘Colours’ and ‘Subways’, the two follow up singles. The latter of the two makes use of minimalism and a subtle Will Smith sample.

Wildflower’s deep cuts consist of tracks guaranteed to please fans of everything from fans of classic rock, 90’s rap, and summer time house. ‘The Noisy Eater’ featuring Biz Markie features a child choir singing Beatles songs interwoven with a Pharcyde sample and a beat reminiscent of Stetsasonic or early De la Soul. The album continues to be more ecstasy laced paradise in jams – with predictably named songs such as ‘Sunshine’ and ‘Kaleidoscope lovers.’

In a year where we’ve lost Bowie, Prince, Lemmy, and Phife, the resurrection of the Avalanches was badly needed. Wildflower won’t change your life, nor will it have the lasting impact of Since I Left You (which wasn’t exactly fair to expect). However, summer 2016 needed something that’s to play at BBQs and beach parties alike. And now, as was said in the opening to Since I Left You’s title track, we have an album that invites you to “Have a drink, have a good time now. Welcome to Paradise.”

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