Albums Of The Week

Music reviews: 16 years after their debut album, The Avalanches return with another masterpiece

Metronomy frontman Joseph Mount; and The Avalanches’ (above) Tony Di Blasi, Robbie Chater and James Dela Cruz.
Metronomy frontman Joseph Mount; and The Avalanches’ (above) Tony Di Blasi, Robbie Chater and James Dela Cruz. PHOTO: ASTRALWERKS

The Avalanches' second album Wildflower thrills with amazing musical gems and collaborations

To say that there is a gap between the release of Australian electronic trio The Avalanches' debut and sophomore albums is an understatement.

Their 2000 album Since I Left You is now considered a sampling masterpiece. Their second album, Wildflower, is only just seeing the light of day. But, fortunately, there is no chasm in quality between the two works.

Like its predecessor, the newly released tracks are a meticulously crafted collection of summer- kissed, effervescent tunes from the crate-digging connoisseurs, each song a rich pastiche of seemingly disparate samples.

Culled from obscure soul, disco and psychedelic records, field recordings and dialogue from left-field films, every one of the 22 tracks provides much to savour and uncover.

What's fresh this time around are the contributions of a group of singing and rapping collaborators from the hip-hop, indie and alternative rock worlds.

  • ELECTRONIC/ HIP-HOP/ PSYCHEDELIC POP

  • WILDFLOWER

    The Avalanches

    Modular/ Astralwerks/XL/EMI

    4/5 stars

Frankie Sinatra, while sounding nothing like anything ever released by Ol' Blue Eyes, utilises a hook from a 1947 song by calypso singer Wilmoth Houdini and rap verses from rising rapper Danny Brown, who has a similar high voice.

The same song includes a cameo by British rapper MF Doom as well as samples from The Sound Of Music's My Favorite Things. As incongruous as it sounds on paper, this hotchpotch works, resulting in a bouncy, carnival-like track.

Elsewhere, Sesame Street songs segue into samples from New York hip-hop elder DJ Kay Slay (Harmony), while the title track borrows dialogue from Robert Downey Sr's 1969 satire Putney Swope.

There are frequent forays into psychedelic, indie-pop territory, most notably in Colours and Kaleidoscope Lovers, songs which feature the vocals of Mercury Rev frontman Jonathan Donahue.

On Kaleidoscope Lovers, the alt-rock vet describes the overall mood of the album: "Everywhere you look/Children run like crayon colours into the sun/And in the wind, I can see/One by one, wildflowers dance with me/Oh it's a real swinging scene."

Stepkids features Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' violinist Warren Ellis, as well as weathered singing from Royal Trux's Jennifer Herrema.

Newer alt-rock and indie royalty also rear their heads - Father John Misty sings backing vocals on Saturday Night Inside Out and Tame Impala singer Kevin Parker plays drums on the interlude, Going Home.

The Avalanches perfectly weave together all these contributions as well as slices of vintage pop from the likes of disco outfit The Fuzz and rock 'n' roll band Tommy James & the Shondells.

There's a lot of joy in the album and an overaching sense of wonder brought about by the discovery of long-forgotten/never-were gems in a goldmine of samples.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2016, with the headline 'Blooming wonder'. Print Edition | Subscribe