sun 14/07/2024

CD: The Avalanches - Wildflower | reviews, news & interviews

CD: The Avalanches - Wildflower

CD: The Avalanches - Wildflower

The Aussie sample stitchers' follow-up inhabits the light and makes sense in the sun

Avalanches - keeping the freak flag flying high

The weight of expectation can be a terrible thing to bear. When Since I Left You, The Avalanches’ patchwork party debut, was released in 2000, there was no sense of how long it had taken to make, just a collective intake of breath at the dense layers and intricate detail. Plundering anything and everything in their bid to create this delightful decoupage, it was the sheer scale of the band’s collective imagination that thrilled. How could any follow-up possibly compare?

Listening to their long-awaited comeback Wildflower, which has been 16 years in the making, it sounds like they've not given it a single, let alone second, thought. Keeping the car parked at the turn of the millennium and steadfastly refusing to move it, the band’s remaining line-up – Robbie Chater, Tony Di Blasi and James Dela Cruz – has produced a follow-up that feels in many ways willfully backward-looking. The old production ticks are all accounted for: reedy field recordings burst into life as a filtered bass bosses its way to the foreground; children’s voices give guaranteed Proustian rushes, and disco basslines pulse through some unbelievable sonic needlework.

It's a tactic that may have served them well, however, since, awkwardly kooky lead single “Frankie Sinatra” aside, this is a remarkably coherent collection of songs. “Because I’m Me”, a relentlessly upbeat street strut, kicks things off, and the sunny mood is one that rarely wavers. “Subway”, featuring a sample from a 1980 tune by then 12-year-old singer Chandra, is paired with absolute perfection to a Bee Gees bassline. The big names aren’t just in the samples here, either. With a great reputation comes great collaborations, and so it is here, with a roster including hip-hop showman Biz Markie (“The Noisy Eater”), Royal Trux's Jennifer Herrema (“Stepkids”), and Mercury Rev's Jonathan Donahue (most notably on the no-samples-honest-it-was-like-this-when-we-got-here single “Colours”).

If there is a point of difference, it’s that Wildflower feels calmer, more measured perhaps. Certainly it doesn’t give the instant “fuck-me” fix that Since I Left You did – particularly when a monochrome summer sky is pissing on your parade. Some will say that Avalanches are no longer groundbreaking, and it's a fair point – but they already did that. It may not set out to change the world, but Wildflower is a beautifully crafted album that inhabits the light and makes sense in the sun.

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