Slowed to a snail's pace by the tedious clearing and re-clearing of samples, a three-year bout of an auto-immune disease, dead-end side projects and general disillusion on the part of the group themselves, the Avalanches' Wildflower has been one of modern music's greatest teases. In 2005 it was a "work in progress"; in 2007 there were over 40 tracks recorded; in 2012, guest collaborators confirmed their involvement — but only now, in 2016, have the Avalanches managed to drag their long-awaited opus out of the shadows to let it shine. And shine it does.
It's hard to imagine any fans of Since I Left You not finding some joy in this record, if not lapping it up altogether. Granted, Wildflower is a touch more psychedelic than its predecessor, relying a bit more on '60s samples, but that unmistakeable Avalanches vibe — like you're wandering through different rooms at a tropical mansion party — is still in full effect. Of course, the other noticeable difference is the big names who've contributed to the album.
Some may chastise the Avalanches for having such a wealth of collaborators on Wildflower, but they really do sound like they belong here. Firstly, this style of music is simply crying out for contributors, and had anyone known who they were first time around, you can be assured that Since I Left You would've been littered with guest spots. Secondly, building an album over a period of 16 years without drawing in some well-knowns would frankly have been odd and surprising. Thirdly, the collaborative efforts on the record are nothing short of superb.
For weeks we've heard "Frankie Sinatra," where Danny Brown once again shows that he can own every track he appears on, even upstaging MF DOOM, who manages to sound a tad limp next to Brown's trademark manic flow. Hidden among the record's lesser known material, though, are gems like "The Noisy Eater," which sounds like someone's given Biz Markie control of the Yellow Submarine, and "Saturday Night Inside Out," featuring Father John Misty atop poet /songwriter David Berman's soporific musings, which could be in the running for best outro track of the year. Then there's the album's saccharine highlight, "If I Was a Folkstar," written by Toro y Moi about an acid trip he had with his wife-to-be. It's about as infectious as you'd expect a Toro y Moi and Avalanches collaboration to be while avoiding stepping on each others' toes at the same time.
While the days of heavily sampled music seemed dead and gone forever, the Avalanches have somehow managed to pull off an album that's as much a mastery of red tape as it is of musical prowess. Wildflower is a real testament to the tenacity of the Avalanches, and one we're truly grateful for — but here's hoping we won't have to wait until 2032 for their next one. (XL)