February 11 2013
21-year-old Australian producer Harley Streten a.k.a. Flume got his start in music at the tender age of thirteen when he discovered basic music-producing software as a prize from his cereal box. When I was that age, I got Honey Nut Cheerios race cars or sent in box tops for a Michael Jordan Wheaties basketball. Unfortunately, not everyone’s careers are made by their cereal box prizes; otherwise, I’d be the starting forward for the Bucks with a sweet car collection and mountains of speeding tickets. But luckily for Flume, his career has led him to be one of the most talked about young producers in the indie-electronic genre. With this record he’s looking to make a big splash in the United States having already established himself in his native land. Join me as dissect Flume’s debut album.
Streten cites Moby, M83, and Flying Lotus as huge influences of his music (remember, he’s only 21!), and those artists play a big part in the majority of Flume. As the album begins, the most immediate sound is the Flying Lotus brand of hip-hop percussion and spacey synth. However, you can’t beat FlyLo at his own game. The first song on the album “Sintra” almost seems out of tempo until it catches its footing as the bass kicks in. It’s a decent opener, but he’s trying too hard to emulate rather than create his own sound.
The album takes off with the hit single “Sleepless” (feat. Jezzabell Doran) that garnered over a million views on YouTube. This is the funky jam that I expected from an artist from Streten’s background and influences. A definite crowd-pleaser for this summer’s festival circuit, “Sleepless” is the highlight of the record. This track is an example of what the rest of the featured artist’s contributions should have been like. Of the five features on the record, Jezzabell Doran is the only vocalist to simply augment the overall song, rather than draw attention away from the music. Those spotlight songs belong on their own respective albums, because the point of Flume is to hear Streten’s production. Instead, he takes a backseat to a few unknown artists.
After “Sleepless,” the record is full of songs that start strong, but regress into his typical hip-hop beat/space synth found in the first few tracks that Streten seems to be most comfortable with. That’s to be expected with most debut albums, though. He needs to gain his audience’s attention, and then he can experiment with more unconventional sounds. Until then, I’ll accept what has been given to me and the rest of Flume’s growing fan base.
My last critique of the album is the fantastic closing track “Holdin On.” Streten tosses in a sample of Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose” which gives a little peak into the hopeful future of Flume. It’s one of the only songs where he sounds like himself, rather than a copy of an already established artist. The album definitely slumps in the second half, but is saved by this jam that totally re-imagines a classic tune. If he can capture what he’s done in this track and apply it to his next album, Flume will succeed here in the States.
Fans of non-mainstream electronic music will appreciate a young artist that isn’t chasing huge drops or flooding his songs with bass. Surrounded by media buzz, this Australian producer might just have what it takes to break into the ever expanding realm of electronic music. I wish the same could be said about my basketball career.
Stream the entire album here.
Flume - "Holdin On"