Twenty years ago, The Avalanches released their near-perfect debut, Since I Left You. A groundbreaking entry in sampling and plunderphonics, the album was heralded by fans and critics as an immediate classic. But the Melbourne group, content only with perfection, spent over 11 years working on a follow-up and after lineup changes and more sample clearances, finally released Wildflower in 2016, cementing their career as more than just a one-hit-wonder. We Will Always Love You, their third album, is just their latest achievement in flawlessness, a record that continues the sound that is undeniably The Avalanches.
Don’t be discouraged by the lack of gestation time. Although their newest release came to be in less than half the time of Wildflower, that expeditiousness serves a change of recording technique, not a drop in quality. Instead of finding and clearing as many as 900 samples (the amount on Since I Left You) Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi spent their time building only the structure of the songs from samples (still in the hundreds) and fleshing out the rest with live instrumentation. Andrew Szekeres, brought in to help facilitate that process, continued with the same template as Wildflower, opting to employ more live musicians in lieu of samples. Among others, We Will Always Love You features MGMT, Cornelius, Vashti Bunyan, Tricky, Kurt Vile and Blood Orange, and with all of the disparate artists, the album still manages to meld them together into something musically universal.
Those features often prove the highlight, whether it be the star-making turn from Cola Boyy on “We Go On” or the measured versatility of Rivers Cuomo on the karaoke-ready “Running Red Lights”. Those two tracks, like many here, are inescapably fun, finding buoyance and balance among the dense production and adding an unchecked positivity that remains elusive in 2020. Since I Left You may have been the Avalanches operating at their peak, but after two decades of missed tour dates, personal turmoil and hard work; We Will Always Love You proves their best work could still be ahead of them.