The Avalanches – Wildflower
Released July 1, 2016
By Brendan Tuytel
Music has always been about building on developments of the past. Influences are wrought and woven into intricate semblances of something completely novel. This doesn’t detract from what’s being produced, it simply acknowledges the role of what precedes it. Yet some artists revel in a repurposing of music, as is evident on the Avalanches much anticipated sophomore effort Wildflower. Infusing modernity into the sepia soaked samples of yesteryear creates a beautiful synthesis that demands attention when it succeeds, but seems forced when it misses.
This is first and foremost an album of nostalgia. Sound effects like the rattle of spray cans and the click of a tape player attempt to create the atmosphere of discovery, setting the scene to envelope the listener in a moment. Transitioning into the tracks captures that feeling of hearing something for the first time, the setting in which it happens, and attaches the sentiment surrounding it. Every element that fills the gaps between standouts contributes to this, developing an album long sensation of indulging in music in a personal way. However, the oddity of a flawed transition is jarring, breaking apart what’s supposed to be a seamless experience. In particular, the way Wildflower bridges The Noisy Eater and Harmony stops the record after a near perfect twenty minutes.
What separates this album from their cult classic debut is the wide array of features, most prominently rap from the likes of Danny Brown, MF DOOM, Biz Markie, and others. The urban feel flows through the veins of sixties pop painting city skylines in pastel psychedelia. This is when the album soars, yet it’s also where it falls flat the most. On Frankie Sinatra, Brown puts his personal touch on the uppity, polka beat, which is oddly fitting for the eclectic emcee, but DOOM seems alien on it, putting forth a subpar effort. While one adapts their substance to the style, the other fails to find a place of comfort in a brief verse, as both the track and the rapper simultaneously bring down each other. It’s a perfect representation of how the relationship between the artist and the track is exactly that, and both require compromise to work.
While this detracts from the quality of the record, it doesn’t detract from the sheer joy that comes from listening to it. One out of place feature or poorly executed filler track can’t take away the smile plastering plethora of samples, retooled and rekindled for artists new and old. The Avalanches dress up disco in a do-rag, paint over polka and pop, and implant imagination in tired tracks. It’s upbeat with a reverent wry charm, repurposing the past in a joyful new experience.
Despite faltering at parts, Wildflower is an album about a feeling, and it’s an instantly contagious euphoria. Lined with a spastic effervescence, you can’t help but get caught up in the sensation it attempts to convey, wrapped up in warmth of putting on a vintage record and hearing it come through the static, or putting together the playlist to a polaroid outing. It’s the perfect album for summer, so go out and make a mistake with it playing in the background, light some Roman candles with breath that might ignite from one too many drinks, swim stripped down to bare skin, and make some memories to the sounds of someone else’s.