8 November 2016

The Avalanches - Wildflower

This is one of the albums I have been meaning to look at for so long, but it is also an album that is album sixteen years in the making.  In 2000, 'Since I Left You' was released to great acclaim (it was released in 2001 in the UK & other markets due to licencing issue with some of the samples, or the need to change to another sample) and whilst the band have continued to tour, there was always a slight possibility that they would never release as they were working on a musical version of King Kong, a failed project which would have been a hip-hop Yellow Submarine as well as other projects.  Some of these projects influenced this release according to the interviews with the band, but it is a pleasure to actually hear some new music from the Avalanches.  But if you are reading this, I have a feeling you might already know a lot about the band; with that being said, I will start the review of their second release from this enigmatic band.

01 - The Leaves Were Falling

The album starts with a fifteen second introduction, very short and it really is an introduction to the next track......

02 - Because I'm Me

The first track proper starts with some bright horns, a sample of a young kid singing and it all sounds very retro and then the sound becomes clearer and the colour comes into the song.  It feels like the world is your oyster and everywhere the sun is shining.  Out of it context and on its own, it is still a good song, but it does miss that introduction that was provided by "The Leaves Were Falling".

03 - Frankie Sinatra

This song is another whirling mix of samples, hooks, vocal effects and a great rap about weed, drink and Mr Sinatra is mentioned quite a lot. The band are joined by Danny Brown & the legend that is MF DOOM on this number, towards the end of the song it samples 'My Favourite Things' from the soundtrack of The Sound of Music. A pattern is starting to form with this album, the song is good and I like it a lot.  It reminds me of some early Cypress Hill and it is incredibly catchy, but it does work much better in the context of the album.

04 - Subways

Sampling 'Subways' by Chandra & 'Warm Ride' by Graham Bonnet, 'Subway' adds disco to the mix on this album.  It has a classic tone and the samples are seamlessly mixed in (as you would expect with this band) and it is a classic song that works at any time.  It was the first song I heard from the album and it is one of my favourite moments of the album, with a tone that is as big as 'Around the World' by Daft Punk; it brightens my day whenever it appears and always brings a smile to my face with an amazing bass hook that just keeps giving.

05 - Going Home

As 'Subways' fades out, it merges into 'Going Home' without missing a beat and can be looked upon as an extended ending to 'Subways’ as it continues to use the same samples, beats and hooks.  Featuring Kevin Parker on additional drums (aka Tame Impala), this song continues to reinforce the belief in me that this album is better when the songs are better as a whole than viewed on their own.

06 - If I Was a Folkstar

Featuring vocals by Toro y Moi and a sample from Queens of the Stone Age (a band who seemed to be sampled a lot this year), this song is a track which seems to be a contradiction in terms; it seems incredibly loose and free, whilst feeling also feeling as if it is so focused on a point that it can go on forever without missing a beat.  I like it a lot and it keeps the energy of the record, still not breaking that thought that everything is better in the whole than individually. 

07 - Colours

‘Colours’ is another dose of psychedelic, beautiful sounds and sample merge to give this a dream-esque feeling, as if reality and fantasy are merging together with the lines being blurred.  It is a gentle song with an innocent feeling, it radiates sunshine from its very core and when it starts to fade, it feels as if the colour is draining from the world a little as well.  It is such a beautiful oasis in the world, definitely one of the most interesting section of this album that does work on its own as well.

08 - Zap!

‘Zap!’ is a segue tune which acts as a link between ‘Colours’ and ‘The Noisy Eater’; nice enough and completes its job well.

09 - The Noisy Eater

Coming in from ‘Zap!’, this song about eating too loud and it is done with a little bit of a tongue in cheeky vibe, it is a something that annoys a lot of people and I am not too bothered to be honest.  However, the song is another mix bowl of sound and this time with added eating noises that will have some people in rage, I love the sample in the background here as it is bonkers!

10 - Wildflower

The title track of this album, but it is just another segue and it feels weird that the album got its title from this track.  However, that is not for me to judge at all, as it is still an interest bridge onto ‘Harmony’.

11 - Harmony

Another largely instrumental song that seems like a dream which has been re-created into music.  It is a lot less intense than ‘Colours’, but it feels like a natural companion piece to that song. 

12 - Love a Lifetime Love

This track feels a little bit strange for me, at least when it is played on its own and not in the confides of the album itself.  It feels like it is very much a beast with two sides, the music is changeable throughout the song and it doesn’t quite feel right when it is listened to on its own.  However, when it is part of the album itself and just a piece of this mix, it works so fine.

13 - Park Music

Being another segue track, ‘Park Music’ would be easy just to ignore and focus on the longer songs; but The Avalanches make sure everything on the album is as important as the rest of the world.  This is one of the segue which I would love to have seen if they made a longer version of the music.

14 - Livin' Underwater (Is Somethin' Wild)

Next the album takes us on a short trip to the water, it is very short indeed and it is another that could have been stretched out.  On its own it is a track that is just starting to get interesting when it comes to an end, but once again when viewed as part of the whole album it is the right length.

15 - The Wozard of Iz

Following in from ‘Livin’ Underwater (Is Somethin’ Wild)’ it continues a similar theme and I do wonder why they were split into two separate pieces here. It could have easily been released as one piece, but again I digress.  This time it is a very gentle piece of sample mixing and a brief piece of rapping that keeps up the goodtime vibe that reminds me a little of Flobots.

16 - Over the Turnstiles

Yet another segue, thirty-nine seconds in length and onto the next one…...

17 - Sunshine

We are back in the summer trip on this one, with more samples and hooks than you can imagine, it has so much going on it places and it also feels simple as well.  That is a tough act to pull off and this song does it admirably.

18 - Light Up

The sound of thunder and wind chimes start this song, then an organ comes on and it is possibly starting to turn into a little bit of a strange nightmare, it is a dark number in comparison to ‘Sunshine’ and very trippy and once more it is over far too quickly.

19 - Kaleidoscopic Lovers

‘Kaleidoscopic Lovers’ is a song that is in a state of constant flux when the pitches of the music are being changed every few seconds, making its perception constantly change for you.  Whilst a beautiful arrangement, it is one that takes some time to get used to; but it is worth the effort.

20 - Stepkids

The tracks are gaining length as we enter the endgame of this album, ‘Stepkids’ is a track which takes a few listens to make sense, much like ‘Kaleidoscopic Lovers’ as it is not too easy on the ears in places.  But I appreciate the effort behind the song, I admire the work and love behind it and in the confines of the album, itself it makes so much sense.

21 - Saturday Night Inside Out

‘Saturday Night Inside Out’ is such a such a good track, it never fails to raise a smile as it just builds so nice from the opening piece and the fade in/samples/loops all converge to give this song a hook that stays in your mind all day.  It is the end of summer, the lights are fading and nights are drawing in – but the party is still going on and the world is not over yet, it is such a good song and it makes everything feel like it will be alright once again.

22 - Frankie Sinatra (Extended Mix)

As it says on the tin - an extended version of the third track on the album, nothing to say other than it is fun!

This is an album that is definitely best listened to in one go and to never cherry pick any of the tracks to stand alone as they function better together than separately.  It can be best described as one of the best stream of consciousness that I have ever seen; seriously, it is just one big trip with so many samples that it is hard to focus on one little thing, you need to view the bigger picture, it is the definition of a mix album.  This obviously lends it to being a piece of work which does not have hit singles, but I have a feeling that is just fine by the Avalanches.  This has exceeded my expectations on every level, it was strange to listen to the songs by themselves, but it also made me appreciate the work and effort that the Avalanches put into their music.  Go and purchase this now and to the Avalanches, please do not leave it so long till the next album.

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost......

Top track - Well, to be honest it is really best to listen in one glorious moment; but if pushed to make a choice I would say Saturday Night Inside Out

You can purchase Wildflowers on Amazon here.

You can visit the Avalanches website here.

You can follow the activities of the Avalanches on Facebook here.

You can stream Wildflower on Spotify here.

You can stream Wildflower on Deezer here.

You can stream Wildflower on Tidal here.

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