‘Hi This Is Flume’ paints an electronic soundscape that stuns both sonically and visually

‘Hi This Is Flume’ paints an electronic soundscape that stuns both sonically and visually

Words by Leland Tan

Coupled with a 43-minute music video that chronicles his adventures, Flume enters uncharted realms with a no-frills low-key release after a two-year hiatus.

On Wednesday March 20, Sydney native Harley Streten (AKA Flume) dropped a 17-track mixtape, following a surprise Twitter announcement just a day before, and the world was predictably shaken up. This comes just before an additional new single, ‘Friends’, released on Thursday March 28. The Grammy award-winning producer, who swept up eight ARIA awards back in 2016 for his second album, Skin, hadn’t revealed much about works in the pipeline since then, besides a solo writing camp in Sri Lanka, a collab with American rapper JPEGMAFIA, and even working alongside his resident pup.

Now, after a string of LP/EPs and two critically acclaimed albums, comes a 38-minute project that intermittently strays into sonically unfamiliar spaces, forming a deceptively cohesive track list with some muscular collaborations and a surprisingly polished finish for a mixtape. It’s opener ‘Hi This Is Flume’ and ‘╜φ°⌂▌╫§╜φ°⌂▌╫§╜φ°⌂▌╫§╜φ°⌂▌╫§’ (not a typo) are its quirkiest and shortest endeavors; the former sees Harley wantonly multiply himself, while the latter almost serves as an ephemeral appetiser leading into tracks with the likes of Eprom, HWLS, slowthai and homegrown vocalist KUČKA.

Harley’s inclination for female vocals on his tracks are well-documented, but besides KUČKA’s saint-like tolls on ‘Voices’ and a remix of SOPHIE’s ‘Is It Cold In The Water?’, the mix doesn’t quite contain the poppy responsibility and gravity that was necessary in Skin. Instead, it allows for more freedom and volition when it came down Flume’s creative play. Hard pumps and hollowed out gaps in tracks like ‘Wormhole’ and ‘Mud’ underscore the producer’s attention to detail, and solidify the veins of the mix. ‘Jewel’ is perhaps the closest copy of a structure that’s familiar to fans, and exists together with ‘Spring’ as an ode to Flume’s evolution.

‘How To Build A Relationship’ intersperses an array of unorthodoxly-timed space gun samples wound tightly with US rapper JPEGMAFIA’s progressively furious verses. It results in an explosion of profanity midway through the track, as if to signal its impending and overwhelming apex, only to revert back to a familiar sound. In ‘High Beams’, English rapper slowthai’s biting, snappy delivery is given the front seat, with an interplay of shuffles, hisses, and timely beats that progress the track, whilst also acting as an entity between verses.

The productions frequently mutate with such alarming propensity that they start and finish as different entities altogether, like in the case of ‘Vitality’. ‘Ecdysis’ thumps and shifts with such groundbreaking force, plunging intricate chimes into gradual disorder and forcing them to co-exist. Make no mistake, ecdysis is the process by which reptiles shed old skin, and is purposefully high up on the track list.

The entire mixtape’s undeniably multihued and experimental, and the entire track list is rife with intricacy and clever blemishes from Streten that it naturally forms a much larger thematic experience when coupled with the visualiser. On subsequent listens though, several tracks are akin to much of what the producer is up to in the montage – in search of something that might not even be present. And that’s okay.

Hi This Is Flume might not bring him the successes of Skin or even Flume, but it wasn’t meant to anyway. Streten often says he wants to hear music that he’s never heard before, and he’s just gone and done that. It’s telling that the producer will put his tunes where his mouth is, and there’s no stopping a sonic visionary like him when it comes to threading the proverbial wheel of fortune – no one knows where it’ll land, or how far it’ll go, but we’re strapped in for the ride anyway.

In one of the final montages of Zawada’s music video, we centre in on a jaded, fatigued Streten who has just wearily made it to the pinnacle of a sand dune only for a second, less mired version of himself to appear moments after. He’s burying his haggard counterpart below palms and palms of sand as if to bid adieu to a former self. Yes, you have seen many different Stretens, but this is the Flume he wants you to see now.

Hi This Is Flume is out on all streaming services.