What does it sound like?:
In one of the more unlikely comebacks of recent times, July this year saw our favourite antipodean sample-based groove merchants The Avalanches return with a new album, the first since their debut in 2000 (Since I Left You).
The most astonishing thing is just how much it sounds like business as usual. They’ve lost none of their magic touch, and haven’t tried to update their sound – this could easily have come out in 2001.
The idea of ‘sample based music’ might need a bit of context for the uninitiated. As you listen to Wildflower you might well hear bits and bobs from songs you recognise – there’s a bit of Admiral Halsey…. Isn’t that Fairport Convention?…. A children’s choir singing Come Together… How can they get away with this? Aren’t they just copying others peoples’ records? Well, yes. Yes they are. But think of it as collage and don’t worry about it. They’re re-contextualising, folks – recasting old sounds in a new sonic landscape. It all flows seamlessly though – you won’t spot the joins, and it’s almost impossible to tell the samples from the original sounds.
The cover is a cheeky rip off of Sly’s There’s A Riot Goin’ On. The band are quite blatant about where they’ve stolen from, sharing their influences on their Twitter and Facebook posts.
It’s a lot harsher than Since I Left You. That album was for parties, this album’s for introspection. It’s music made for headphones, a bubbling, psychedelic road trip of warm, nostalgia-inducing creaminess.
Over four sides of vinyl, a vague, almost prog-like thematic shape emerges. Side One frontloads things with the most immediate, disco sounding tunes (‘Because I’m Me’ sounds most like the debut album, a euphoric Jackson Five style groover). Side Two kicks off with the dreamy Colours (you know that lovely Burt Bacharach theme to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? That, backwards. And it’s beautiful) and then goes full on Sesame Street. Sides Three and Four take you into some undiscovered woozy easy listening world, ending things with Saturday Night Inside Out, a kind of beat poetry statement of intent (‘I inaugurate the night with a little weirdness…’) over a stomping rhythm.
The magpie nature of sample based music is now a commonplace thing. But with Wildflower, The Avalanches have proven you can rise above novelty and create something immensely moving.
After about 200 listens, I’m still getting my head round it and it’s still my favourite LP this millenium so far.
What does it all *mean*?
I guess it means that, even if you start from a position of acknowledging that all the great music is in the past and the golden age is long gone, you can still create beautiful art from plundering records great and obscure. The history of recorded music is a sweet shop ripe for the taking.
Goes well with…
Walking around the deserted streets of Costa Adeje in the cool dawn breeze. That’s how I first listened to it, and it was a sublime experience.
Might suit people who like…
The Orb, Royksopp, The Beach Boys, Ennio Morricone, John Barry.