Artist: The Avalanches
Release Date: July 8, 2016
Every artist is deadlocked in a battle with time. Far fewer come out on top, but such is the case of The Avalanches, in more than one sense.
Great music transcends, and for this mysterious bunch of Aussies who took us on an unforgettable journey with their perfect debut, Since I Left You, redefining the artistry of sampling forever, time functions as a tool. In fact, it is their greatest asset. Over these sixteen-odd years we’ve had only a precious few hours of live mixes, reworks and compilations to satiate a need for music that is undeniable- bigger, brighter and more colorful than life itself. But with Wildflower, the desperately awaited and prayed-for full length that is now a reality, The Avalanches have returned with a stunner. Miraculously, the music that has come out of their dormancy is far from forced. Each moment is every bit as uplifting and intricate as one could hope. Not a shred of frustration can disrupt this wave of auditory bliss.
In their sonic spelunking the group mine the lost wonders of every era, from comedy albums to string quartets, hip hop breakbeats and more. Forgotten sound bites crackle with new life when repurposed in one of their trademark collagist odysseys, synthesized in fresh and often astonishing emotional combinations. Suddenly what was gone forever is turned to gold. Opener “Because I’m Me” flicks on the nostalgia instantaneously, and a lonely voice crying for acknowledgement at last gives way to a transcendent verse from collaborator Camp Lo that leaves me beaming uncontrollably every time. This lovely track bursts with swagger and bravado in the face of heartbreak, introducing a bittersweet gleam that permeates the entire track list. “Frankie Sinatra” is the only cut on the entire album that somewhat tests my patience, but it feels necessary in the flexible narrative that emerges over the course of the record, and in the continuation of strong and identifiable guest appearances.
After this bombastic romp and the airtight soul groove of “Subways,” the album begins to drift far from its structured, urban beginnings. A heightened sense of peace and freedom takes over, unbridled joy that feels impossible coming from such a notoriously exhaustive creative process. That unidentifiable Avalanches magic comes through in spades, with help from Toro y Moi, Biz Markie and a veritable horde of ghosts who could never even dream they would grace the grooves of such a far-reaching album. Singling out tracks for praise gets tricky on Wildflower‘s latter half, as sequencing is of utmost importance and quality never wanes. Even so, “Harmony,” “Park Music,” “The Wozard of Iz” and “Kaleidoscopic Lovers” deserve shout-outs. They are dope.
In many ways Wildflower feels like a spiritual continuation of Since I Left You, a ‘journey’ record of similar length and artistic scope, with different tonal colors that give it a unique life. Everything joyous about this album is met with subtle jabs of pain and darkness that illuminate the fallout of considerably more life lived and even members lost along the way. Creating can be a very lonely enterprise, and in a mere few paragraphs I cannot do justice to the untold late nights of frustration and moments of creative euphoria that birthed this collection of songs. One of The Avalanches’ many gifts lies in how they paint over these rough edges, establish vibe over everything else and make you forget the intensive processual steps it took to complete even five seconds of this untenable project. The initial vision of a band that would defy convention, break every rule and emerge unharmed remains intact. Again, these mad geniuses have bottled the escapism promised by every Hawaiian print button up, Corona ad and hallucinogenic and turned it into something tangible. A motel masterpiece… This is a record that will inspire grand adventures, in the sunshine or the rain. I’m thankful for it.