The Avalanches Give Their Signature Sound a Collaborative Update on 'We Will Always Love You'

BY Kaelen BellPublished Dec 14, 2020

Albums by the Avalanches used to introduce themselves like dreamy street festivals — crowd chatter, hot pavement, snippets of music — arriving on the sounds of togetherness and life. We Will Always Love You, the duo's celestial third album, arrives alone as Orono Naguchi's sombre voice comes through the gentle blue fuzz of an answering machine and sets the scene. We Will Always Love You is about that terrifying, galactic solitude, about the enormity of space and the enormity of love, about stars and light and being all alone together.

Inspired, in part, by Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan's cosmic love story, the record is narrated by an impressive cavalry of interstellar guides. Blood Orange, Vashti Bunyan, Karen O, Kurt Vile, Neneh Cherry and a dozen others provide their voices; characters in a grand odyssey that's less interested in traditional storytelling than in illuminating big, indescribable feelings. Samples still abound, but they accentuate the songs rather than define them, making room for live instrumentation and new voices.

The sheer breadth of talent that Robert Chater and Tony Di Blasi have assembled is dizzying, their collaborators as imaginatively selected as their samples. The Blood Orange-featuring title track's sample of the Roches' "Hammond Song" is particularly inspired, doing loving justice to an untouchable, near-mythic track. The 25-track, 71-minute record does start to meander slightly, getting lost among the stars somewhere after the joyous Cola Boyy and Mick Jones-featuring "We Go On," but it all comes softly back into focus on the gorgeous "Gold Sky," as Kurt Vile guides the song through a galaxy of coos, handclaps and shimmering synths like some wise wizard in the sky.
It's a different kind of majesty from a band haunted by their monumental, defining debut, 2001's Since I Left You. By opening their sound to new collaborators and the wide expanse of the sky, the Avalanches have found a way to move forward, alone but together.

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