The Avalanches - Wildflower - 2x LP Vinyl

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The Avalanches
12" Vinyl


To listen to the Avalanches is to wrestle with time. The sample-rich music made by this group of Australian DJs makes you think about where its pieces come from, what those fragments meant to you then, and what they mean to you embedded into the group's finished songs. There’s nostalgia and loss ingrained in every bar, and you can sense the erratic movement of past, present, and future from the first listen.

Speaking of time, there’s also the fact that the Avalanches waited 16 years to follow up their debut album, 2000’s landmark Since I Left You. To be a fan of the Avalanches, you had to be patient. Some of the delay was to be expected. Their first record was said to have thousands of samples, but you never can tell with a figure like that—let’s just agree that it contained a lot. And working with samples means submitting yourself to a longer timetable. Because while Jarvis Cocker might pick up a guitar and write eight songs in two days, building music from other music means you have to do a lot of listening. Which means sampling artists spend a great deal of time engaged in the same activity as their audience—driving around with the radio on, poised by the turntable, dropping a needle, clicking around on YouTube, walking around with headphones. And there are no shortcuts. Throw in the usual long-delayed-album mix of bad equipment, poor health, perfectionism, and clearance issues, and who knows, maybe we’re lucky to get Wildflower, the first new Avalanches record in 16 years.

It’s a music business truism that every sample-heavy instrumental act will eventually work with guest vocalists. As satisfying as it can be to assemble new music from old pieces, every producer, deep down, eventually wants to make their own primary source. Wildflower’s guest vocalists—including Detroit rapper Danny Brown, Biz Markie, rap duo Camp Lo, Jonathan Donahue of Mercury Rev, Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi, David Berman of Silver Jews, Jennifer Herrema of Royal Trux/Black Bananas—are what set it apart from the first record. Since I Left You had huge swaths of constantly shifting sound, flowing as one epic suite, and it was often hard to know where one song ended and another began; almost half the songs on Wildflower are clearly set up to showcase a rapper or singer who have written something close to a proper song, so it’s a series of tentpole tracks joined by gorgeous instrumental interludes of the kind only the Avalanches can assemble.

At its best, Wildflower feels like an extension of Since I Left You, hewing close to its predecessor in terms of style, sound, approach, and texture—you would never mistake this for an album by anyone else. The Avalanches make music that’s open, welcoming, soft, gentle; the track construction is virtuosic, but it never wants to show off, and the beat-jacking never feels competitive. In addition to the found sounds, the album has a lot of new instrumentation, most of it presented to mix seamlessly with the samples. Film composer Jean-Michel Bernard adds orchestrations to a handful of tracks, upping the quotient of Disneyfied wonder. The general approach to production is classic Avalanches: AM Gold pop with its sweet strings bleeds into delicate disco with beats inspired by early hip-hop unpinning the whole, imbuing it with a kind of bookish innocence common to the world of indie pop. If the turntable-scratched choruses are gone, replaced by live people at a microphone, the sonic universe they exist in has, thankfully, changed very little.
A1The Leaves Were Falling0:15
A2Because I'm Me4:12
A3Frankie Sinatra3:44
A5Going Home2:06
A6If I Was A Folkstar4:33
B3The Noisy Eater3:14
B6Live A Lifetime Love2:30
C1Park Music0:54
C2Livin' Underwater (Is Somethin' Wild)1:56
C3The Wozard Of Iz2:59
C4Over The Turnstiles0:41
D1Light Up1:34
D2Kaleidoscopic Lovers3:55
D4Saturday Night Inside Out5:07