When Jay-Z and Kanye credited Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield as featured artists on Watch The Throne tracks that their original songs were sampled on, it was a surprising move. Once Robin Thicke lost his case against Marvin Gaye’s estate, nobody knew whether to celebrate Thicke getting some semblance of cosmic retribution for being Robin Thicke, or be upset about the implications this decision had about sampling music going forward. It’s lead to a string of artists attributing pre-emptive credits, either as a hat tip to another artist for influencing them, or simply as a way to avoid a lawsuit altogether. Needless to say, sampling music is the hardest it’s ever been. So how could a group like The Avalanches be expected to thrive in such a climate?
As a group who became an integral part to implementing some much needed structure into the style of Plunderphonics, The Avalanches unearthed so much previously unactualized beauty in creating a cohesive song built solely around borrowed seconds from a myriad of others. While militaristic shouting over sloppily looped guitars and Casey Kasem swearing repeatedly certainly makes for an interesting listen, there’s not much deeper substance in what was happening here.
These early works of John Oswald and Negativland were rough drafts to an idea that became more robust with The Avalanches providing a fresher set of eyes. Hip-Hop undoubtedly played a huge part in this. Just listen to The Avalanches REAL first release, El Producto. They try being the Beastie Boys, and… it’s not their finest work.
After their failed foray as straight-up rappers, Since I Left You harnessed the genre’s production style being able to create this infrastructure as a means to assist rappers in creating these timeless melodies through sampling. The Avalanches simply took it one step further by completely by passing the rapper idea altogether.
But considering the steep prices of royalties and the newfound hoops producers are using to have them jump through, it seemed as though a followup to The Avalanches’ classic 2000 release, Since I Left You, would either be impossible to pull off, or a diluted facsimile to what listeners initially fell in love with.
Thankfully, it took less than 45 seconds of listening to “Because I’m Me” to see that this will not be a problem. Because in addition to the beautiful jubilance radiating from each trumpet blast and guitar riff, they also wisely recruited rap duo Camp Lo to contribute verses on the track, a recurring new element to help differentiate Wildflower from its long shadow casting predecessor.
Each artist is utilized in a way perfectly befitted to their skillet. Danny Brown and MF Doom (another plunderphonics pioneer) go hogwild on the album’s lead single “Frankie Sinatra.” Biz Markie makes such a weird and irreverent idea work so well on “The Noisy Eater,” a song that rivals “Fronteir Psychiatrist” in its beautifully arranged oddball comedy. And Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi contributes a more reserved charm to “If I Was A Folkstar.”
Not only does “Folkstar” mark Wildflower’s most charmingly somber moment, it’s evidence to show how much the indie world has embraced Hip-Hop and sampling culture since The Avalanches gave us Since I Left You nearly two decades ago. Artists like Chaz, Bradford Cox and the entire Animal Collective contingent have thrived by digging for something new to loop.
Everybody’s caught up to what The Avalanches did so well all those years ago. But the way Wildflower is able to span all the subgenres that have sprouted up since then speaks to how adept they are at being able to navigate each and every new road. Although “Folksinger” is the most blatant example of this, the beautiful “Sunshine” shows this pivot in a subtler light when they elongate her holding onto the ‘iiiii’ note when singing the word “Sunshine” to a degree that would be right at home on a Tim & Eric sketch. But instead of it being some repetitive gag, it gets used as another layer that is used to sing over and it’s absolutely perfect.