Absence makes the fan grow fonder

ARMY OF ME - The Philippine Star

It took Frank Ocean four years to release the highly anticipated follow-up to “Channel Orange.” With its slow-burning mix of nostalgia and Afrofuturism, that debut should’ve been self-contained, a small and complete universe unto itself. Yet the public took it as a promise of more music, especially when what was once novel and striking began to sound insufficiently so.

On Aug. 20, after a few false starts, the singer-songwriter, formerly known as Christopher Breaux, finally delivered his sophomore album. The 45-minute short film Endless heralded “Blonde” days before, along with a video clip for a track called Nikes and a free magazine titled Boys Don’t Cry distributed at pop-up shops in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and London.

The deluge is impressive. While “Blonde” was, fortunately, worth the wait, I can’t help but think that all this was meant to assuage the frustration felt by many fans and temper the disappointment that built up in the intervening period. Don’t get me wrong: I do appreciate everything. It’s a lot to digest. But that’s precisely what concerns me. Did the famously reclusive Frank Ocean just hand us enough new material to tide us over for another four years?   


Set the cheetahs on the loose: Frank Ocean ended a four-year sabbatical last week with the release of the visual album “Endless” and his second album “Blonde.”

How about sixteen years?

The longer fans wait between releases, the greater their expectations become. A delay nearly half a decade long, though vexing, is nothing. Try standing by for 16 years. That’s the amount of time it took The Avalanches to follow up their landmark debut album, 2000’s “Since I Left You.”

Due to factors such as changing influences, legal issues and label pressure — on top of bad equipment, poor health and perfectionism on the part of the artists — the Australian crew only returned with “Wildflower” in July 2016. For those who waited a teenage lifetime for another feel-good, layered offering, the prevailing reaction has been relief and astonishment.

In its day, “Since I Left You” was mythical. It was a feat of production that involved more than 3,500 samples painstakingly stitched together into a seamless hour of euphoric music. Robbie Chater, one of the collective’s driving forces, called it “’60s-influenced, inspired by Phil Spector and the Beach Boys, but using dance music techniques.” To listen to it now, as I first did then — on a summer trip to London in 2001 — is to travel back in time when, CD singles still existed, to a pre-Web 2.0 style of music consumption.

Back to life

Ten years ago, The Avalanches’ record label issued a press release hyping the imminent release of the group’s second album. Apart from DJing at Australian festivals throughout 2006 and into 2007, the group was relatively quiet.

It was only in April 2016 when things appeared to be stirring back to life. First came the announcement of a string of live performances, their first in 15 years, as well as updates to their social media accounts and website with an image of a gold butterfly.

In May, they shared a teaser for a new documentary called Since They Left Us: Whatever Happened to The Avalanches? Referencing their sole album from 2000, the clip recounts the story of electronic outfit throughout most of the aughts and ’10s. In true Avalanches fashion, it’s unclear whether Since They Left Us will materialize into an actual movie or will remain a preview of the new album’s collaborators. In July, a 13-minute short film surfaced on Reddit, featuring cuts from “Wildflower” set to visuals of hundreds of cult and classic movies spliced together.

Worth the wait

While “Since I Left You” got the house party started despite its wistful melancholy, “Wildflower” is more laidback with its wistful psychedelia. Pitchfork describes it as “AM Gold pop with its sweet strings bleeds into delicate disco with beats inspired by early hip-hop unpinning the whole, imbuing it with a kind of bookish innocence common to the world of indie pop.”

Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” and The Avalanches’ “Wildflower” may appeal to different sets of music lovers, but both share a great deal in common. The two sophomore albums prove that good things take time and that patience — whether it’s a four- or 16-year wait — eventually pays off.

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