Music, Recorded, Reviews

Flume – ‘Skin’ album review

| |

There are few greater examples of how affordable, obtainable and useable music technology has shaped the modern music scene than Harley Streten, aka Flume.

Off the back of a string of remixes, singles and eventually an album, Streten has risen from the ranks of bedroom experimenters to the forefront of the international electronic-pop scene.

Now, several ARIA awards, numerous gold records, and barnstorming festival performances worldwide later, Streten faces the age-old dilemma: how do you back up a wildly successful debut with something fresh and interesting, while not alienating the fans you’ve already accumulated?

Skin doubles down on the formula that made his debut so appealing while adding the shameless pop flourishes to broaden his appeal further. But despite the predilections towards the sounds of the Top 40, Skin still feels like a leap forward rather than a revision to the mean.

While other electronic-based acts — Disclosure for example — dialled down some of the elements which made them entertaining, Streten shows no such inclination. Skin may have the glossy pop sheen of commercial radio fodder, but underneath lurks a darker, rawer edge chomping at the bit to break out.

Streten reigns in the guests stars to help provide some of the singles but also gives himself space to wig out alone on some tracks. It’s on some of these, such as album opener Helix, Wall Fuck and 3, that his diversionary interests come to the fore.

Those present simply due to the pop single seduction of tunes such as Never Be Like You may be put off by some of these more abrasive efforts, but for others more accustomed to the heavier sounds of electronic music, there is much to indulge in.

In a post on his Instagram account, Streten said that his goal with Wall Fuck “was to create sounds that sound like the fabric of the universe tearing” and the distorted synths certainly evoke a feeling of fragmentation.

Despite the cavalcade of top line vocal talent, Streten even handles vocals himself on a tune or two. On 3, Streten taped himself singing into the microphone on his computer and the low-fi quality of that element contrasts well against the more meticulous arrangements that surround it.

The headline tunes on this record, however, remain the series of endearing pop orientated tunes that have already captured the general music listeners’ imagination.

First and foremost is Never Be Like You, featuring Canadian singer Kai. With Streten pushing some of his production wizardry to the background and instead showcasing Kai’s soulful pristine vocals, the song is one of those immediately captivating tunes that are almost impossible to not like.

After charting around the globe, the song is also Streten’s first number one single in Australia and an early contender for inclusion on an eventual ‘best songs of the year’ list.

Not too far behind is Say It featuring Swedish songstress-of-the-moment Tove Lo. A pulsating tune with a catchy chorus, the song is a great example of Streten’s abilities as a songwriter and not just a beatmaker.

Other artists of note to appear include Vince Staples, Little Dragon and Beck, whose album closer Tiny Cities is an inspired late album dash of 80s inspired pop. Rather interestingly the single from late last year, Some Minds featuring Miike Snow front man Andrew Wyatt, didn’t make the cut, but amongst the excellent tunes on here it’s not particularly missed.

The main strike against Skin is that in pursuit of pop perfection the flow of the album is somewhat disrupted. It feels much more like a collection of songs than a truly organic complete listening experience. But overall this gripe is a minor one.

The second album syndrome is a difficult path to navigate but with Skin Streten has passed with flying colours.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *