Worth the wait: The Avalanches’ ‘Wildflowers’
Augie Collins | Friday, September 2, 2016
Usually, a band releases a steady flow of albums each year, with some churning out music incessantly and others taking their time. For fans of The Avalanches though, there has been a 16-year drought of music since the band released their praiseworthy debut album, “Since I Left You,” back in the year 2000. Needless to say, the six men who comprise The Avalanches have been taking their sweet time. As the years continued to roll by without a second release, the consensus was that the band must be cooking up something groundbreaking, and their new album, “Wildflowers,” flies up to meet and surpass all of those expectations.
The Avalanches are a peculiar group of music makers, in that they rely heavily on samples, while mixing in original instrumentation and guest appearances at the same time. Reports stated that they used upwards of 900 samples on “Since I Left You,” and to piece that jumble of odd sounds into something coherent takes a great deal of time. Using samples to characterize their music means constantly scanning for sound bites during their daily routines, letting that radio blast in the car and digging through dusty old music files that haven’t seen the light of day in quite some time. Who knows, that advertisement on the television could become the baseline for their next track.
On “Wildflower,” guest vocalists included the likes of Chaz Bundick from Toro Y Moi, Father John Misty, rapper Danny Brown, David Berman of the Silver Jews and more. This is what makes “Wildflower” distinct, and not just simply an extension of “Since I Left You.” The Avalanches take the old and blend it with the new, creating tracks that are warm, gentle and ultimately beautiful. Perfect examples of this on the album are “Because I’m Me,” which blends the crackling vocals of a track you might find blaring from your grandparents old-timey radio, with the lyrical verses of Camp Lo, which burst forth with explosiveness. The track then blurs seamlessly into “Frankie Sinatra,” which features Danny Brown, and keeps up the vintage shtick while Brown’s lyrics rope the song into a more modern age.
The album is The Avalanches’ plaything, and it is easy to tell that they had as much fun producing it as we will have listening to it. “The Noisy Eater” is childish in nature to the extreme, as we listen to a man rap about his pursuit to find the perfect snack, all the while chomping and lip smacking sounds reverberate throughout the track. In addition, we hear a chorus of children belt out The Beatles’ “Come Together” in the background. The lyrics and premise of the song are silly, but so are The Avalanches, and these playful tracks are the essence of the band.
The indie pop songs on the album also deserve recognition. “Saturday Night Inside Out” sounds like an experimental track you may unearth while digging through a treasure trove of records, but at the same time it comes off as polished and refined. It lackadaisically trundles along with summery guitar chords, while David Berman provides narrative style vocals. Perpetuating the lively and bubbling feel of the album, “If I Was a Folkstar,” where Toro Y Moi is featured, throws it back to the ’70s with a beat you might find in the waiting lobby of an ancient video game. The song bounces along though, and shows similarities to recent Tame Impala tracks.
Overall, The Avalanches made “Wildflowers” well worth the wait. Some may say that 16 years is a long time to wait for any album, and it is, but maybe we should just be thankful that “Wildflowers” came to fruition in the first place. Dabbling in the sector of music that The Avalanches do, it’s easy for projects to unwind and fall apart because of the amount of work it takes to meld these songs together. However, The Avalanches have managed to take pieces from an immense number of puzzles, and craft something far more beautiful than the picture on the puzzle box.
Tracks: “Frankie Sinatra,” “Colours,” “Because I’m Me”
If you like: LCD Soundsystem, TV on The Radio