Album Review: We Will Always Love You // The Avalanches

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Ever since Australian dance outfit The Avalanches unleashed their debut long-player, the plunderphonic rollercoaster Since I Left You on an unsuspecting public back in 2000 they’ve been adored by critics and listeners alike. With acclaim comes the pressure to deliver again, Avalanches subsequently signing up to the Vashti Bunyan school of productivity in search of a fitting follow-up. Coincidentally, the cult Geordie singer guests on We Will Always Love You, only the second Avalanches long-player to appear during the intervening two decades. Saying that, it’s less than five years since Wildflower hit the shelves so one cannot help wondering if they have rushed things a little on album number three.

Unlike their two earlier studio releases, We Will Always Love You opens slowly, a woozy introduction, aided by Superorganism’s Orono Noguchi who seamlessly segues into the title track. We’re suddenly startled by a sample of The Roches superb ‘Hammond Song’, although Avalanches seem to be largely moving away from cut and paste. Instead, they’ve been seeking ever more collaborators, perhaps explaining their lightning-fast turnaround on We Will Always Love You, some eleven years quicker to market than its predecessor.

It is a testament to the influence of Melbourne duo Robbie Chater and Toni De Blasi that they can draw friends from far and wide, all lining up around the block to offer their services. Dream-like ‘The Divine Chord’ boasts the vocals of MGMT with Johnny Marr’s famed axe, not forgetting stellar Bacharach and David samples. Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell appears on gentle yet super-infectious funk workout ‘Oh the Sunn!’ and the moment he’s done, Mick Jones wanders into the studio, adding his trademark estuary accent to the alluring French techno tinged ‘We Go On’. The latter will surely leave Air’s Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel scratching their heads wondering how they never created this track beforehand.

The downbeat and otherworldly nature of ‘We Will Always Love You’ feels almost palpable at times. This may be a nod to the darkly surreal year we’ve all endured both together and alone, cutting ourselves off yet digitally uniting as we await our new normal, reflecting, changing, and hopefully improving. This mood is perfectly exemplified on slow-burner ‘Wherever You Go’, eschewing love and friendship from the future of our species; the Neneh Cherry assisted track gradually but steadily expanding like a butterfly from its pupae.

Other moments of welcome euphoria, particularly during the later stages include ‘Running Red Lights’ and ‘Music Makes You High’. Upbeat chill-out tracks ‘Overcome’ and ‘Take Care in Your Dreaming’ both leave you glowing warmly inside, the latter featuring one of Tricky’s two appearances. Kurt Vile and Karen O are two other notable contributors on this record – as always, the Australians keeping you guessing at every turn.

Whilst We Will Always Love You doesn’t quite smack you between the eyes from minute one, this record is a real grower, subsequent listens drawing out different aspects of the dense sonic nuance, perhaps the audio equivalent of watching an episode of ‘Police Squad’.

Take me to your dea…..leader.

Words by Michael Price


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