Since they left us back in 2000, The Avalanches have gained near mythological status as the genre-hopping, era-defining plunderphonics band of legend. 16 years later, and they’re back to take us on another sample-crazed psychedelic tour. This time around with the loose concept of following the journey of some free-spirited drugged out hippie waltzing around seaside towns, or at least the hazy recollection of it.
It’s fitting for The Avalanches that Wildflower is steeped in nostalgia, as that’s the primary reason fans are wary of their return. With each year that passed, more and more fans would fear that living up to the hype of an album as monumental as Since I Left You is simply impossible at this point – and it is. But with Wildflower, The Avalanches show that they simply don’t care.
This carefree nostalgia forms the heart of the album. For the most part Wildflower draws on the sounds of the 70s, and despite mixing in so many other disparate influences – children’s laughter, verses from Danny Brown and DOOM, an Insane Clown Posse documentary and 60s classic The Sound of Music to name but a few – the songs themselves follow relatively straightforward structures. This, coupled with their masterful producing, gives the album a strong enough sense of cohesion that it doesn’t feel messy or overwhelming; different sounds and samples are dropped in left and right, with tracks blending into each other and motifs being repeated and recycled in a multitude of ways, disappearing and sneaking back in again before you’ve even realised. Wildflower is a complete whirlpool of sounds, surprisingly cohesive yet completely unpredictable.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the washed out psychedelia of ‘Colours,’ which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Olivia Tremor Control record, I wasn’t too sold on the bombastic electro-swing of lead single ‘Frankie Sinatra,’ but when taken in the context of the album it makes more sense as a celebration of manic bacchanalia, and at the very least it’s an interesting take on hip hop. Even ‘The Noisey Eater’ which, despite being made from the sounds of people chewing, somehow manages not to be extremely annoying. It’s in the albums latter half that it truly hits its stride though, right from the brilliant Beatles-esque ‘Harmony’ up to album closer ‘Saturday Night Inside Out,’ which features some spoken word poetry courtesy of Silver Jews’ David Berman over what sounds like a zoetrope of samples that’s been dropped into a blender.
It’s not a radical departure in sound for the band – if you can even call them a band – but does it even need to be? It is only their second album after all. With a sonic landscape as unique and perfected as they have made, you can’t blame The Avalanches for wanting to explore it a little further – even if we did have to wait 16 years for them to traverse it again. The Avalanches may still sound like The Avalanches, but no one else sounds quite like them.
Wildflower is available now via XL Recordings