Plunderphonics is a relatively unpracticed genre in music, possibly because of its unique and unconventional nature. For the uninitiated, Plunderphonics is a genre in which tracks are made up of almost entirely, if not entirely, samples of other recordings. One of the most celebrated and masterful Plunderphonics albums in recent memory is “Since I Left You,” released by The Avalanches in 2000. But after releasing this debut album, The Avalanches seemed to disappear with no explanation. Rumors and murmurs of new releases have been circulating for a long time with lots of debunked news and disappointment, but finally, after a 16-year hiatus, The Avalanches are back with a new album called “Wildflower,” released on July 1.
While “Since I Left You” was a moody album, “Wildflower” is a much more consistent collection of happy, uplifting and psychedelic grooves. It’s as if a kaleidoscope was translated into musical form. Just like with “Since I Left You,” listening to this new album is more of a journey than a collection of singular experiences. My favorite tracks are some of the more memorable and meaty ones. “Frankie Sinatra” is the first single released off of the album and takes its name and chorus samples from the calypso song “Bobby Sox Idol” by Wilmouth Houdini. The song features plenty of chimes, horns and a constant tuba sample. The track feels as if it’s being performed at a crazy street carnival with a hip-hop flavor added through verses by Danny Brown and everybody’s favorite supervillain rapper MF Doom. “The Noisy Eater” is a very animated track featuring the Clown Prince of hip-hop himself, Biz Markie rapping about his hunger and his journey to find food. It’s almost like listening to a cartoon as Markie growls exaggeratingly and munches over samples of cheesy advertisement music. Then, the song explodes into a triumphant fanfare of trumpets as Markie finally finds some food to fill his belly amid satisfied slurps and belches. It’s an extremely fun track to listen to and all of the sounds give it nice textured layers. “Subways” is a beautifully funky arrangement of chimes, synths and bass guitar riffs that would be at home at an 80s roller skate disco.
While most of the other tracks are similarly catchy and uplifting, the album isn’t devoid of weaker material such as the melodic but repetitive “If I Was a Folk Star,” although the song does feature some nice vocals by Chaz Bundick, perhaps better known by his stage name Toro y Moi. The album also includes a lot of unnecessary interlude tracks like “Going Home,” which essentially shares the same composition as “Subways” and only acts as an extended bridge. Unfortunately, the album loses steam towards the last quarter and provides a lot more of these interludes and weaker tracks, except for “The Wozard of Iz” with its punchy percussion and verse by Danny Brown.
Overall, “Wildflower” is a really good album with some strong material that proves that The Avalanches are still relevant. While the structure and style of the album is very similar to “Since I Left You,” this album proves The Avalanches have the skills to produce another quality album even after a 16-year hiatus.