Released in 2000, the Avalanches debut album, Since I Left You was created by using 3,500 samples. Since that time, the world has clamored for a new Avalanches record. 16 years later, the group delivers with Wildflower. In those 16 years, a lot has changed in the music industrial. With record labels no longer the cash cows they once were, licensing has become the major moneymaker for the industry which makes creating an album like Since I Left You nearly fiscally impossible. On Wildflower, the group does the next best thing: create an album nearly as good with not nearly as many samples.
To accomplish this feat is no easy task. The album features over a dozen guest collaborators, including guest vocals from artists like Danny Brown and DOOM to artists like Father John Misty and Toro Y Moi. Although these artists’ contributions are all great in their own right, the music of the Avalanches is clearly the star of the show.
Music has the power to be transportive. As cliche as it sounds, music can take you on an adventure to a different time or different place. To listen to Wildflower is to experience that sensation. The album is a true circus for the mind. Hearing Danny Brown rap over an oom-pah band in “Frankie Sinatra,” evokes images of the Detroit emcee in lederhosen during Oktoberfest. The psychedelic “Colours” sounds like a technicolor kaleidoscope while “Harmony” evokes the same warmth as the Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (a record which the Avalanches have been known to sample).
While nearly every track is transportive, not every track is a winner. “Noisy Eater” takes the Avalanches’ sense of nostalgia and insouciance to its breaking point. With Biz Markie rapping about sugary cereal, the song concludes with a vocal sample saying “ethereal cereal has the added punch of point zero zero two ESP units of pectin” and another vocal sample quickly jumps in saying “no shit!” It is an overplayed gag that feels too sophomoric for a group as applauded as the Avalanches.
Very rarely does the group cross that line on Wildflower. The album is about the best version of Since I Left You that can be made in 2016. It does not have the same girth of samples as their debut but it does have that undeniable sense of hope and joy which may turn out to actually be the Avalanches’ calling card.