Fifteen years since their 2000 debut album Since I Left You, Australian artists The Avalanches make a return with the anticipated follow-up Wildflower. An album with such a long waiting period will always fail to meet expectation, but with charming use of the band’s reputation for sourcing and its catchy, vibrant tunes, fans cannot be unhappy with this 22 track nostalgia trip.
The image of a multi-coloured butterfly flying towards a vibrant American flag greets listeners via the album cover. The vibrancy of this image gives a good indication of what to expect from the psychedelic trip that lasts just over an hour. Evoking the 1960s counter-culture movement, there is a sense that the Avalanches are taking us to a distant land bereft of war and hatred. Pertinent in a world drenched in the reality of horrific events happening around the world every day, Wildflower is the pursuit of serenity.
A tone of child-like glee permeates through the album with its effective use of sourcing copyrighted sounds. No track sounds the same, each telling a story or evoking a tone.The delightful track ‘The Noisy Eater’ is an extraordinary blend of sounds, capturing the innocent nature of a kids book with the slurping, messy sounds and the use of a child choir singing the Beatles’ Come Together. ‘Subways‘ utilises the approach of a funky dance number while ‘Colours’ is the closest the album gets to a full-on LSD-induced journey.
What’s amazing is how the Avalanches are able to blend tracks together to create one of the most cohesive album experiences I’ve heard in a long time. No awkward pauses or transitions. Just a flowing river of vibrant experiences.
The closest the album gets to a pop song is the divisive ‘Frankie Sinatra‘, which includes featuring hip-hop artists Danny Brown and MF Doom. While it did take a few listens to get its appeal, this infectiously catchy song did grow on me. I do disapprove of MF Doom’s section of the song which does kill some of the fun and vibrancy of the catchy chorus and Brown’s rhythm. Also, I do prefer the extended mix version found at the end of the album with the inclusion of an additional lyric and closing sound bite of a cash register opening.
Wildflower‘s dream-like vibe is certainly ambitious for an album that was fifteen years in the making, but the question is: will fans appreciate it and label it as a worthy follow-up to the cult status of Since I Left You? Hard to say.
If you are looking for ambitious, genre-defining songs like ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ or ‘Flight Tonight’, Wildflower may disappoint. Considering the long wait that involved members of the band dropping out, numerous delays and many copyright approvals, the fact Wildflower is not a complete dud is astonishing. For Wildflower to be a cohesive blend of vibrant, child-like innocence filled to the brim with extraordinary detail, I don’t think Avalanches fans could ask for more.