Wildflower The Avalanches Modular/EMI Few sophomore albums have assumed such mythic status as Wildflower. Following up a debut such as 2000’s Since I Left You was never going to be easy. Its critical and commercial success has grown in status with each passing year, aided in part by the constant speculation about its successor. The Avalanches — Robbie Chater, Tony Di Blasi and James Dela Cruz have teased, promised and, it appears, lied about when Wildflower might see the light of day, turning the project into an urban myth. After stops, starts, cryptic teasers and fabrications, that elements of various completed, half-finished or abandoned side projects progressed by the group since 2000 now find their way on to Wildflower is fitting. Serving as forks in the road, these experiences have contributed not only to the album’s delay but also to its richness.
It’s dripping, like its predecessor, with weird, wonderful and obscure samples: the trio has fashioned a nostalgic, carefree and mood-setting journey traversing psychedelia, hip hop, ambient electronica and odd musical territory that largely lives up to the hype. The Leaves Were Falling is the first of many glorious instrumental interludes woven throughout Wildflower that serve to connect the meatier offerings, featuring performances from Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundick, Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue and Silver Jews’ David Berman. Because I’m Me shines like a summer day, all good-time vibes, vintage strings and the contemporary rhymes of Bronx duo Camp Lo. It’s joyous fare, sadly not matched by what follows, the calypsoinspired first single, Frankie Sinatra, featuring Detroit rapper Danny Brown and MF Doom, which quickly grates with its repetitive vocal sample and circus-like swing.
Third single Subways, in contrast, is an album standout, an airy groove marked by warm bass and thick and varied samples that, like those throughout Since I Left You, make for an immersive experience. The Noisy Eater is notable mostly for the lyrical stylings of Biz Markie and a surprisingly cleared sample of the Beatles’ Come Together, while Colours is a laid-back, trippy groove reflective of much of Wildflower, where strange lines such as “After dark and the bars are slow, where do all the mermaids go?” make sense. As one of the first songs produced following Since I Left You, album closer Saturday Night Inside Out wraps up Wildflower in poetic and dreamy fashion.
The Avalanches admit they “nearly gave up more than once” through the long production of Wildflower. Illness, inertia, distractions and label collapses all played their part, but the fact they’ve emerged with this emotive album despite these challenges — and the hefty weight of expectation surrounding anything Avalanches-related — is impressive. It seems good things really do come to those who wait.