“And she taught me to relight, relight, and relight again.”
Wildflower arrives exactly where its predecessor “left” off, the first track (15 seconds of ambient noise,) segways directly into the killer “Because I’m Me,” the grooviest, danciest track on the LP, featuring samples from 70’s soul pop group “Honey Cone,” soaring orchestration and an incendiary verse from New York rappers Camp Lo, that adds up to something that can only be described as “pure joy,” igniting a sense of nostalgia in listeners too young to have experienced soul, funk and disco, while retaining modern immediacy. In fact much of the album lies in stasis between the past and present, sampling 60’s psychedelia, snippets of comedian Jerry Lewis, children's choirs singing the Beatles, orchestral renditions of show tunes and placing them alongside some of the best artists working today, such as MF Doom, Toro y Moi and Father John Misty. Sometimes the effect is more jarring than it is gratifying, (which is most likely the reason for the backlash behind lead single “Frankie Sinatra” which pairs rappers Doom and Danny Brown with the soundtrack to The Sound of Music,) but more often than not the blend of past and present works to wondrous effect.
The meat of the album is dreamy techno-pop boosted by all manner of organic instrumentation, at times sounding like the soundtrack to a seriously far-out Disney film, a little like a hip-hop flavored version of The Flaming Lips classic, The Soft Bulletin, where the group mixed soundtracking and organic instrumentation to whimsical, beautiful effect. Former Lips member Jonathan Donahue appears on album highlight “Colours” which features more dreamy, psychedelic instrumentation (this time with no sampling,) and tracks like “If I Were a Folkstar” and “Live a Lifetime Love” make you feel as if you’re being swept out into a soothing sea of electronic bliss. The album begins to wind down towards the end of its hour-long runtime, and ends on the sweetly introspective “Saturday Night Inside Out,” which features a spoken word performance from poet David Berman and vocals from Father John Misty, nostalgically reminiscing about a relationship long since past tinged with modern social commentary “I first saw her in a mega store/The day-glow raven born into a free fall.” The song feels like it’s about finding meaning amongst the humdrum of everyday life, about finding beauty in the mundane and commercial. When Berman softly says “I adored the way she modified my mornings/When I'd wake up in the calm shoals of her bed,” set against the listener can positively feel the hazy glow of early morning sunshine through dusty blinds, birds chirping, the warmth of a lover beside them, lost with time.
Wildflower is an album deeply rooted in nostalgia; much like its predecessor Since I Left You, it attempts to recreate a time-period with the music that came with it, it is an odyssey of an LP, twisting and bending the listener through a time-warp of lush orchestration, playful beats and callbacks to other eras. If it doesn’t wholly succeed, it’s because of the meandering nature of some of the tracks, but for the most part, Wildflower is on par with The Avalanches’ early-work, and puts them back at the top of the electronic-heap a whopping sixteen years after their debut. Their new album is a cause for celebration, and contains some of the most fun, exhilarating music of any era. Even without the advance hype, Wildflower would still be a phenomenal release from one of the most important electronic groups of all-time, one that celebrates life and cherishes, above all, the little moments.