Album Review: The Avalanches' Long-Awaited "Wildflower"
At this point, it’s nearly impossible to assess the strength of Wildflower without making note of the fact that it’s been sixteen years since The Avalanches left us. In the history of musical disappearances, very few rival such a lengthy lull period. However, this delay seems appropriate for a group whose sound feels detached from time itself; for The Avalanches, it’s not about the sound, but the feeling. That said, with the ever-increasing legacy of their debut, it’s hard to listen to their follow-up without pondering if it could possibly reach equal heights, or indeed if it was worth the wait at all.
For their second release, The Avalanches retain their sample-based approach while tapping into more psychedelic and hip-hop influenced territories. Wildflower is best described as a street carnival mixed with a fever dream- at times delirious and lucid, others festive and urgent, always celebratory. These varying sounds are tied together with multiple interludes to ensure the album retains a remarkable flow.
There are missteps, sure- divisive lead single “Frankie Sinatra” (with Danny Brown and an under-used MF Doom) has been the cause of much ire amongst fans, and “The Noisy Eater” (with Biz Markie) appears to be The Avalanches’ failed and frankly annoying attempt at recreating the spontaneousness of “Frontier Psychiatrist”. However, these moments aren’t overbearing on the overall result, and are balanced with fantastic tracks including “Because I’m Me”, “If I Was a Folkstar”, “Colours” and “Kaleidoscopic Lovers” (featuring Camp Lo, Toro y Moi, and Jonathan Donahue respectively).
So, will Wildflower go down in history the way its predecessor Since I Left You did? Who knows; it’s unrealistic to expect a group to bottle lightning twice in a row (not to mention unfair). Besides, it’s the wrong question to be asking- “is it any good?” will suffice. The answer to this is a strong yes. Wildflower perfectly encapsulates unidentifiable feelings of nostalgia and, for all the times you may be tempted to get off, it’s a trip you’ll still want to keep returning to.