It was always going to be hard for The Avalanches to follow up their debut Since I Left You. At the time of its release, it was groundbreaking and re-wrote the way in which music could and would be created. It may have taken them sixteen years to follow it up, but 2016’s Wildflower went a long way towards allowing an entirely new generation of listeners to experience an essence of the magic the band delivered at the turn of the century.
Wildflower was like watching the band hit reset, as they embraced the best parts of Since I Left You while also trying to do something new for the band, via the introduction of live vocals. And while Wildflower may not have quite lived up to sixteen years of hype. It did allow the band to progress and break away from the mould of being nothing more than specialist crate diggers.
Here on third album We Will Always Love You there are the better parts of both its predecessors, without resting at all on the laurels both the albums oh so carefully created. Coming in at more than seventy minutes in length, We Will Always Love You is a long listen. However with its twenty-five individual tracks ranging from mere seconds to nearly six minutes; it definitely doesn’t feel like you’re spending more than an hour listening from front to back.
Sure, you could easily skip the short tracks used to link each longer moment. But then you’d be missing out on those snippets that piece the entire album listening experience together. And that’s exactly what The Avalanches try to create on each of their releases: an experience; a moment.
Yes, there are definitely those songs that could (and do) stand by themselves as a single (“Running Red Lights” ft. Rivers Cuomo & Pink Siifu being a notable stand out), but for the most part, you’re definitely better off listening to it from front-to-back, in one sitting.
The titular “We Will Always Love You” is a gritty spoken word rap track featuring Blood Orange on vocals. Its sweet and angelic backing track, with the simplest of drums, sets the album off on a great note having commenced with two interstitials. It’s followed by “The Divine Chord”, a track featuring MGMT and Johnny Marr, you’re thrown back to the exact heights The Avalanches experience on Since I Left You (both the album and song). It’s a dizzyingly beautiful three minutes.
There’s a continuing theme of space, light and cosmic love throughout We Will Always Love You. This theme adds a level of mystery and wonder to the album, as The Avalanches take you to a level of beyond the earth realm. Working with all time legend Leon Bridges, “Interstellar Love” delivers the smoothest and most satisfying moment of the album. It’s subtle and sweet. But entirely and purely satisfying.
Funk makes its first real appearance via “Oh The Sunn!”, a subtle two minutes invoking similar vibes to Wildflower‘s “Subways”. Meanwhile the fun beach party vibes continue with “We Go On”, featuring an overt reworking of Carpenters’ classic “Hurting Each Other”. Just like “Oh The Sunn!”, the funk is strong on “Music Makes Me High”.
The tech-house mash up of “Wherever You Go” ft Jamie XX, Neneh Cherry and Clypso is the hardest track on the album to pinpoint due to its rapid fire and ever changing rhythm. It’s a super busy track, but some how just works. Sure to be one of the most DJ set sampled songs of 2021, “Take Care of Your Dreaming” features rapid fire verses from Sampa The Great, Denzel Curry and Tricky. It’ll melt your face.
Described by the band as a more mature version of Since I Left You era The Avalanches, the fluid jazz driven bassline of “Born To Lose” is a well hidden nugget of fun delivered just as the album begins to draw to a close. If you’re to take anything away from We Will Always Love You, let it be the sentiment delivered on “Music is the Light”. With the duo originally wanting the track to be featured near the beginning of the album, there’s a nice level of comfort knowing that after more than seventy minutes of their release, you leave the listening experience of We Will Always Love You with the lyrics of ‘music is the light and I have what it is to shine’.
Just over twenty years since they re-wrote music history, We Will Always Love You is a chance for The Avalanches to reset, rewire and reawaken. It’s a subtle nod to their past and gentle acknowledgement of their future. Just make sure you listen to it all the way through.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The band will be hosting a special live streamed DJ performance on Saturday December 19th to celebrate the album’s release. Filmed on top of Melbourne’s iconic Curtin House, the duo will be spinning tunes from their own back catalogue along with favourites and deep cuts from their collections.
The performance will be streamed three times across three time zones. Los Angeles 8pm local time; London 8pm local time; and Melbourne 8pm local time. Tickets are available now: Melbourne, London, Los Angeles.