Harley Streten started making music as a teenager after tinkering with a music programming CD that came packaged with his breakfast cereal. Now, at 21 years old, Streten is known by his stage name, Flume, and his “high-brow dubstep” (as was described to me by the lighting engineer) has made waves in the music world, going as far as knocking juggernaut One Direction off the charts.
On several occasions, I have heard comments such as, “You have to be high to enjoy this music.” I’d prefer to say that you need to be in the right environment. The music is difficult to assign to a category, with tracks ranging from ambient electronica to chillwave to hip-hop.
The right environment was the Mezzanine in San Francisco, which has recently featured fellow electronic artists such as James Blake and Matthew Dear. The crowd consisted mostly of hip 20-somethings, some holding inflatable palm trees and ponies above the crowd.
Synth-pop artist Touch Sensitive opened. The pornstache and the nostalgic ’80s wardrobe made him come across as a novelty act, but the music — a playful mix of synth and disco — was surprisingly absorbing.
Flume’s entrance onstage was cinematic and somewhat reminiscent of the landing of an extraterrestrial life form in a light show. He opened the set with the atmospheric Yolanda Be Cool cover “A Baru in New York,” while his equipment rested on a hexagonal box that showed a kaleidoscopic tunnel of lights (somewhat similar to the effect featured on his album cover). He bounced between the turning knobs and pounded a synthetic drum in synchronization with the lights.
The visuals were a crucial aspect of the show. Distorted images of model Jezzabel Dorran’s mouth were shown as she sang along to her guest vocals on the track “Sleepless.” Glowing silhouettes of objects, such as buildings and television sets, exploded and then reassembled on the screen. “The only risk is that you’ll go insane,” Moon Holiday sang.
Flume is well known for his sped-up vocal samples, and many of these were added to his instrumental tracks during the live show. Flume played songs that sampled classic hip-hop songs such as “Higher,” a mix which is layered with the vocals from the Notorious B.I.G. song “Juicy.” Flume saved his most intense track, “Hyperparadise,” for last. The sea of people was as erratic as the cacophony of sounds on the remix of Hermitude’s song.
While the set list relied heavily on covers and remixes of other artists’ work, Flume knows how to rile up a crowd and put on a good show.