SKIN COMPANION EP I by Flume
Favorite Tracks: “Heater,” “Quirk”
Electronic music is getting harder and harder to neatly categorize these days. Flume, the alias of 25 year-old Harley Streten, is one such electronic musician that knows this all too well, and he’d rather you don’t simplify his work. He recently claimed to not actually know what EDM is, let alone identify his music as Chainsmokers-esque, shimmering fluff. His output may not speak to exactly the same type of Electric Daisy Carnival-driven crowds, but it’s hard to argue there isn’t some decent overlap with his recent surge in popularity.
His most recent full-length release, SKIN, saw the Australian artist culling from a wellspring of musical influences. Chart dominating, saccharine singles such as “Never Be Like You (featuring Kai)” and “Say It (featuring Tove Lo)” were two clear examples of his ability to assemble well-placed, sensitive rhythms and hooks under a couple of sweetly seductive pop crooners to compelling, radio-friendly success. On the other hand, SKIN also sported some of his most left-field creations to date, such as his frigid, wonky collaboration with ethereal vocalist Kučka, “Numb & Getting Colder,” or the bonkers “Wall Fuck,” a track he intended to sound “like the fabric of the universe tearing.” Is Flume having a producer’s identity crisis, or is he, like so many in his age bracket, abiding by a label-agnostic ideology?
Despite Flume’s penchant for eluding smooth categorization, he glides into a slightly foggier, more abstract field with his newest release, SKIN COMPANION EP I, a brief quartet of songs yielded from the same sessions that birthed SKIN. The EP, much like its beefier sibling, cites several artists and genres as sonic inspirations while still retaining a core element unique to the young producer’s signature sound. One of his most recognizably Flume tracks, “Heater,” retains his notable warbling synths and bombastic drops that are sure to please any festival EDM tent. Despite this, the song hints at evolution. The beginning of the track steadily builds to the drop with the sounds of frayed synths and trickling water, a duality of the synthetic and the organic foreshadowed by the striking album art.
His inspirations from his contemporaries are more obvious on a track like “V,” which opens with playful clicks and clangs reminiscent of Shlohmo’s naturalistic opus, BAD VIBES. The refrains are garnished with steady drum machine hisses that easily evoke COSMOGRAMMA-era Flying Lotus. The result is a laid-back, refined tone, a far cry from his extroverted, self-titled 2012 debut.
The opener, “TRUST (featuring Isabella Manfredi),” runs at a similarly thumping pace as “Heater,” and is led by an expectantly alluring female vocal performance, but also incorporates off-kilter bubble popping effects, strongly resembling the sugary, artificially-flavored production of PC Music’s SOPHIE. A fittingly diverse and invigorating blend of sounds to start off Flume’s experiment on a high note. The album ends on an introspective note with “Quirk,” a low tempo, eerie, synth-led piece that ultimately crescendos with distant, blown-out drum machine sounds and a sensitive male vocal lead. It’s a bold, grand end to an impressively creative 13 minutes of music.
Flume didn’t need to evolve for anyone, at least not at this point in his career. His recent staggering five ARIA wins for SKIN in his native Australia are evidence enough that his work is resonating strongly. Yet, with this EP, we witness ever-growing maturity and a hunger to innovate. Flume isn’t exactly subtle in who he has chosen to appropriate particular style flourishes from, but that is by no means a bad thing, merely evidence of a young man with conscious taste in his field. For a producer who could be potentially labelled as EDM, that is a very refreshing sign of things to come indeed. Just don’t call him EDM.