At last check, pigs continue to remain earthbound, and yet we really do have a new album from the Avalanches. The Australian plunderphonics group released their legendary Since I Left You 16 years ago, and they have reportedly been working on their follow-up LP for well over a decade. That’s a delay of Chinese Democracy proportions. Turns out that this seemingly perpetual hiatus wasn’t so much the result of foot-dragging or creative conflict (though founding member Darren Seltmann did part ways with the band last year), but rather partially a side effect of Robbie Chater struggling with an autoimmune disease. Legal wrangling over the clearance of samples is also partly to blame (the band does use a snippet of a Beatles song, after all). Regardless of the reason for the wait, it still came as a surprise when, in early June, a single dropped and the group that brought us “Frontier Psychiatrist” announced they would indeed finally be back in the saddle.

Whether or not such a long gap in output actually began to cause the Avalanches mystique to wane, Wildflower arrives with both anticipation and the potential for a huge letdown. The latter actually seemed to take on greater possibility after the album’s aforementioned first single “Frankie Sinatra” made the rounds in early June. Sure, it’s a fine track with a similar eccentricity and lively bounce to much of Since I Left You’s standout tracks. But the inclusion of Danny Brown and MF Doom seemed like a possible omen of a group out of ideas relying on a heap of guest spots to flesh things out. What’s more, the primary looped sample—in which Wilmoth Houdini invites Ol’ Blue Eyes to try out calypso—can come off a bit grating on first listen. Thankfully, Wildflower rises above these initial concerns, and much like its forebear, the record is a collage of head-bouncing beauty that demands to be listened to in full.

The intro to the album may not be the smoothest—“Because I’m Me” sounds a little like forced nostalgia with its mashup of disco, a vocal loop from an untrained ‘50s adolescent group and the featured rhymes of Camp Lo. But once it breaks through this track and “Frankie Sinatra” (both of which begin to grow on the listener upon repeat listens), Wildflower quickly blooms. “Subways” proves the album isn’t here to mess around, dropping the quirkier vocal samples and creating a dancefloor banger that bridges the gap between a funk-fueled disco and a modern club, even with the same Bar-Kays sample from “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” thrown in for good measure. This segues perfectly into the equally energizing thumper “Going Home.”

The album stays playful throughout. “The Noisy Eater” taps Biz Markie to rap about Cap’n Crunch as children chant a sample of the Beatles’ “Come Together,” and it approaches Gorillaz’s “Superfast Jellyfish” levels of breakfast pandemonium. Meanwhile, the Day-Glo munchkin vocal effects on “Colours” makes the track sound like something sung by Tim Burton’s Oompa Loompas. And the chirpy vocal effects return on “The Wozard of Iz,” which is counterbalanced by quick-delivery rhymes from Danny Brown. Meanwhile, Toro y Moi lends his chill vocals to the energetic “If I Was a Folkstar.”

Wildflower isn’t going to be revered like Since I Left You. That’d be impossible even if it were a near-perfect record—and, as it stands, it’s merely a very good one. The glimmer of the Avalanches may have had a chance to dull a bit with such a long interim between releases (hell, babies born when their debut launched are now learning to drive), and the musical landscape has changed considerably. But, by tapping into both vintage samples and newer influences and by staying true to their aesthetic despite the time off and the shakeup in their roster, the Avalanches have not disappointed with this long-awaited second record. If only to fully appreciate the trove of samples, any Avalanches album would require repeat listens—thankfully, that’s not the only reason you’ll have a hard time turning off Wildflower.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Children of the Sea

Once the kaleidoscopic spectacle ends, we’re not left with much substance. …