Album of the Week: The Avalanches, 'Wildflower'


The Avalanches, 'Wildflower'
The Avalanches, 'Wildflower' (Astralwerks)

So far, most reviews of the Avalanches' second album, Wildflower, seem to focus on the reviewers' intimate relationships with the band's first album, 2001's Since I Left You. In my case, though, it was the band's disciples that caught my ear in the early-to-mid-2000s, most notably Girl Talk and the Go! Team. Listening years later, it's as if the Avalanches' original aesthetic was splintered into pieces, and the aforementioned bands' brainchilds, Gregg Gillis and Ian Parton, respectively, each ran off with their own chunk and perfected it over the last decade. Gillis' Girl Talk mashups set the constantly undulating white noise of pop music and placed it as a backdrop for rap verses from the history of hip-hop, revealing unexpected insights from all the original source material. With the Go! Team, Parton dug through the crates of pop ephemera (though not that forgotten, as early copyright lawsuits proved) to craft sound collages that were fresh while also subliminally recalling childhood memories that may or may not have ever existed.

After spending years absorbing and adoring the creations of Girl Talk and the Go! Team, it took only a few listens for my appreciation of Wildflower to build. I certainly feel like I haven't gotten to the bottom of it yet, and I suspect it's an album I'll return to often. It isn't a record that easily clicks into focus, but the underlying infrastructure is not only apparent, it's fairly spectacular at that.

The Avalanches are on record comparing Wildflower to a road trip; I'd take it a step further and compare it to the memories of a road trip you took years ago. Perhaps you intently paid attention to landscapes on the horizon before dozing off, waking briefly a few hours later as you drive through a large city at 4 a.m., before waking later at sunrise as fog covers the road and an old cassette plays on the car stereo. These mental images come together and dissipate in a moment, while the brain tries its hardest to compile them into something resembling a coherent narrative. This is the experience of Wildflower: moments of intense focus drift away into cul-de-sac reveries; by the time you're on the next segment, you don't realize that a transition has occured until five minutes after the fact.

The experience of the Wildflower mix is such that dissecting individual songs seems beside the point. There's plenty more to be said, but part of the joy of the album is its consistent sense of surprise, even on subsequent listens. I can't wait to go back and relive its routes and detours, and I suspect you'll feel the same way as well.

Audience ratings for this album

Among The Current's listeners who submitted a rating for this album, 85 percent gave the album 5 out of 5 stars. Poll closed at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 22.

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