It only took four years for the Melbourne duo to conspire their guest-packed third LP
The arrival of We Will Always Love You, a mere four years after Wildflower, caught us entirely unawares.
The Avalanches made us wait for their second album for so long—16 years after their debut, Since I Left You, to be exact—that, one, we didn’t really believe there was ever going to be one, and two, we didn’t really think they existed anymore.
There is nothing normal about The Avalanches. The Melbourne, Australia-based group, started as a six-piece, which multiplied fluidly for their live shows, then divided by losing a founding member and is now pared down to two central figures: Robbie Chater and Tony DiBlasi. Their critically and commercially acclaimed debut, Since I Left You, is an exemplary plunderphonics work, creating a wholly original musical patchwork from instantly recognizable and thoroughly obscure samples alike. As Chater says, “I was just a punk kid who could play a lot of instruments really badly. Discovering sampling made the possibilities seem infinite.”
Artist: The Avalanches
Album: II: We Will Always Love You
Label: Modular Recordings
★★★★ (4/5 stars)
The Avalanches invited some guests to thread through their sonic needlepoint on Wildflower, but We Will Always Love You has so many collaborators, multiple ones on each song, that there are almost as many recorded musicians as there are sampled ones. From Leon Bridges to Perry Farrell, Blood Orange, Neneh Cherry, Jamie xx, MGMT, Johnny Marr, Kurt Vile, Tricky, to mention just a few, no matter who the collaborator, their contributions are treated the same as samples, sometimes appearing minimally and other times chopped and rearranged.
In some cases, such as “The Divine Chord” with MGMT and Johnny Marr, they channel the Jackson 5, on “Oh The Sunn!.” With Perry Farrell, they crib from the Hair soundtrack, and on the Jamie xx, Neneh Cherry and CLYPSO collaboration, “Wherever You Go,” the personalities of all the creators slot into each other easily. On the title track featuring Blood Orange, The Avalanches give him free rein to freestyle, and when they team up with Leon Bridges and the gorgeous, otherworldly “Interstellar Love,” they almost sound almost like a “normal” band.
VIDEO: The Avalanches feat. MGMT and Johnny Marr “The Divine Chord”
We Will Always Love You revolves around a concept sparked by Chater coming across Ann Druyan’s Golden Record, “a mixtape of the Earth,” as he calls it, created to accompany Voyager 1 and 2 on NASA’s Voyager Interstellar Message Project. Druyan is the widow of Carl Sagan, the scientist who brought the cosmos into every person’s living room with his PBS program, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which Druyan co-wrote. The couple’s work hit its mark with The Avalanches. As far as Chater is concerned, Druyan Voyager compilations parallel what he does with The Avalanches and sampling, particularly when sampling someone who is long departed. As farfetched that sounds upon first hearing it, the more you listen to We Will Always Love You with its mish-mash of moods and the style, the more plausible the idea becomes.
The 25 tracks on We Will Always Love You range from 10-second captured sounds or random bits of dialogue or atmospherics that string together The Avalanches’ version of what passes for a three-and-a-half-minute pop song. The ideas are such fresh takes on the classic idea of a pop song that they should be the new blueprint, one that curtails genre by incorporating multiple ones into every track.
As much as The Avalanches tried to go for distinct songs, We Will Always Love You can’t help but play through like the best pause-and-record mixtape taken from every radio station on the dial across four decades, starting from the late 1940s through to the early 1990s.