Leaving gigantic gaps between your albums, in the case of the Avalanches 16 years, can go either 1 of 2 ways. Either everyone is reminded how much they loved and missed you, Portishead’s Third is a great example, or everyone is reminded of how dreadful you and the remnants of your band have become, Guns N Roses I am talking about you. Understandably therefore fans of the Avalanches have awaited their second album with a sense of trepidation. However, they need not fear Wildflower is exactly what those who loved the Avalanches at first sight would and could have hoped for.
Some critics have seen the material on Wildflower as pointless nostalgia from act they found irritating in the first place (ahem the NME). Such criticism is itself pointless 1. Why review an act you hate 2. Nostalgia really isn’t a negative but is rather a beautiful tool, which allows for reflection and often a flush of joy at past innocence.
Innocence is a theme the Avalanches often seek to replicate in their sound and Wildflower like their debut is littered with attempts to achieve this. Many of the melodies are almost nursery rhyme like. Whilst interludes between tracks are dotted with samples of children’s voices. During these dark times, a sense of innocence is a welcome relief from watching all our lives fall head-first down the crapper.
First single Frankie Sinatra is a bit of a marmite track, you are either going to love it or loathe it. Coming across all calypso samples and hip hop bass, it has been a turn off for some fans and a ramble rousing return for others. From my perspective Frankie Sinatra is a fun track that makes great use of a Sound of Music sample and allows Danny Brown to flex his bizarre scatter shot rapping style to full effect. On top of that the chorus is a real ear worm that you’ll be singing for weeks after hearing it. However, Frankie Sinatra, is an anomaly on an album of mostly chilled summer tracks.
There is beauty to be found all over Wildflower. It’s locked within the psych-hop vibes of Sunshine and the title track and stashed by the bag load in the chilled summer evening beats which accompany nearly every track. 16 years away has not seen the Avalanches uncanny ability for making a beautiful beat fade.
As With Since I left You, Wildflower has a real sense of fun to it, there is humour in many of the samples and in the interludes between tracks. Such use of light relief is welcome in an era where hip hop and electronica have often lost the playfulness of their infant years, in-favour of masculine aggression and petty street boastfulness. The Avalanches make no attempt at either of these and are all the better for it.
Unlike Since I Left You, Wildflower is full of guest spots, however, unlike some lesser producers those tracks where a guest appears, such as Colours or Because I’m Me, never result in a sense of the Avalanches taking a back seat to their vocalist. Their style and sound remains at the forefront of the tracks. Such skill is a real credit to the strength of their production abilities and helps to mark the Avalanches out among their contemporaries.
The world has changed a hell of a lot in the last 16 years and whilst the Avalanches may have remained very similar, despite the introduction of folk and psychedelia to their sound (the Beach Boys have been a clear influence), the fact they have stood still has worked tremendously in the group’s favour. The Avalanches’ sound is one which is unique and alien to almost anything else in existence, standing still rather than re-inventing the wheel was just what the Avalanches needed to do. And on Wildflower they do this successfully.
Fans and geeks alike will also be delighted to note that the duo’s sampling remains as eclectic and brilliant as ever. If you are seeking to use this album as a tip-off to find new tracks you won’t be disappointed. Neither will you be disappointed if you are picking up a copy to witness the art of sampling done well, because the Avalanches do sampling very well.
And that’s really the key to Wildflower, the Avalanches do what they do and they do it very well. The return of the Avalanches much like the arrival of the Avalanches is a joy. Let’s just hope fans don’t have to wait another 16 years for their next joyous antipodean ear worm.