The Avalanches: Wildflower

Scott Wallace
5th Jul 2016

At this point, enough has been said about the enormous (but not unprecedented) length of time between Wildflower and The Avalanches' 2000 debut Since I Left You. The wait feels inconsequential, because despite shedding some members and bringing in some high-profile guest vocalists for their second album, it doesn't feel that much has changed. Wildflower is a compulsively listenable and charmingly inventive record that serves as a reminder of why we missed The Avalanches so much in the first place.

Across Wildflower's first seven tracks, The Avalanches deploy a gleefully mutating sound that almost completely disregards genre. Starting with the angular, soulful hip-hop of "Because I'm Me," which features a great turn from rapper Camp Lo, through the swing-inflected bounce of "Frankie Sinatra," the disco pulse of "Subways" and "Going Home," and the psychedelic folk musings of "If I Was a Folkstar" and "Colours," there is a huge variety of sound and colour, but it still feels very cohesive. The record's first third is by far its most compelling, and a brilliant example of The Avalanches' incredible ability to re-contextualise and revitalise familiar sounds.

The record does stumble at times, particularly with the appearance of rapper MF DOOM on "Frankie Sinatra," whose performance feels phoned in and threatens to derail the momentum of that opening volley. Other moments, like the overly repetitive "Sunshine" and the unfocused "Live a Lifetime Love" feel half-finished, and also cause some wobbles in the easygoing roll of the record. The song "Frankie Sinatra" attracted a lot of criticism for its apparent novelty sound when it was released as the record's lead single, but within the context of the record, it and its brethren "The Noisy Eater" featuring a gleeful Biz Markie munching away fit in well with the record's playful, almost cartoonishly optimistic vibe.

Wildflower flows together seamlessly, no matter the odd digressions and occasional silliness that it indulges in. While its middle section is perhaps too focused on syrupy sunshine-and-daisies neo-hippie folk sounds and fails to be as engaging as it could, it still feels like a natural progression when a Danny Brown feature on the gorgeously odd choral workout "The Wozard of Iz" brings the interest and energy back for a strong finish. Even when the album hits a brief rough patch, it still makes complete sense. There is such a sense of cohesion that it is very difficult to pick out sampled elements from newly recorded parts, making the record feel endearingly timeless.

It may not be perfect, but the overall mood - the pervasive sense of disorienting nostalgia and the big-hearted largesse - will have you returning to the album again and again. With highlights as engaging as "Subways," and the closing swell of "Saturday Night Inside Out" with its spoken word musings and lapping waves of melody, it's easy to simply take the album as it comes. Wildflower isn't the masterpiece that perhaps many were expecting, but The Avalanches should be commended for finding new facets to their sound, but still remaining completely true to their musical identity.

Wildflower is streaming now via Apple Music, with a release on other streaming services, as well as CD, vinyl and digital retailers to follow on Friday July 8th.