It’s halfway through 2016, and already it feels like there has been an overwhelming amount of new, significant music. There was the media storm surrounding The Life of Pablo. We received a new Radiohead album, an album that’s existence was as much of a surprise as its beauty. James Murphy promised more new music, and has reassembled LCD Soundsystem and been performing live. But the most stunning development is Wildflower, the second album from The Avalanches and their first since 2000.
In 2000, The Avalanches released Since I Left You an album with a title that seemed more apropos with each passing year of false starts, and teasing updates on a follow up from the band. Since I Left You was an album ahead of its time, a phantasmagoria of samples and sounds from obscure sources all brought together into a beautiful and cohesive record. It was eclectic in an age where genre boundaries were still pretty strong and restrictive. Since then, a ton has changed. Girl Talk has come and went taking a page from The Avalanches cut and paste mashups, albeit using pop music as their source material. Beyonce and Jay Z have been seen at Dirty Projectors shows. Kanye West has collaborated with Paul McCartney and Elton John. Gorillaz made albums. We celebrate diverse music libraries, champion playlists on streaming services that place a Deafhaven track right after “King Kunta.” The Avalanches have returned into a world that has adopted part of their essence t as a general code
But that doesn’t make Wildflower any less interesting or profound. The album is as distinct and singular as Since I Left You. It still can only be an Avalanches album. What is so fascinating about the band is not simply eclecticism, it is their ability to take their sources and turn them into something entirely new, something totally euphoric and delightful. You get lost in their music. It surrounds you and enchants you. If music is a drug, then the Avalanches are the best possible drug. Listening to them, even the most mundane of walks bathes you in joy and beauty. Eventually the tracks not only begin to blend into one another, but into the world around you. They enter the ether and the spirit of all things.
There is a strong sense of celebration on Wildflower, and there should be. It took 16 years to make. The album’s second track, “Because I’m Me,” begins with a muffled funk beat which explodes out into a wall of horns and strings featuring rapping from Bronx rappers Camp Lo. It sounds like the messiah returning to earth. Its joyous, a reintroduction that makes you wonder why you ever doubted the return.
From here the album flows into the lead single “Frank Sinatra,”a funhouse freak-out of calypso, MF Doom, Danny Brown, and The Sound of Music. Danny Brown appears later on the album on “The Wozard of Iz.” The album as a whole features a deep roster of featured guests ranging from indie artists like Ariel Pink, Toro Y Moi, and Father John Misty to Biz Markie to french composer Jean-Michel Bernard. Some of these guests, specifically Ariel PInk, Danny Brown, and Jennifer Herrema, began collaborating on these songs in 2010. In the six years after, these rumors started to feel like fantasies, a delusional hope that the band would return. But with this release, it’s just proof of the meticulous production and effort the Avalanches put in for Wildflower. It was worth waiting sixteen years for this album.
Listen to: “The Noisy Eater”, All of the album straight through
By Alex Sniatkowski