BERKELEY'S NEWS • OCTOBER 01, 2022

Flume builds foundationally experimental, sonically pleasing ‘Palaces’

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MAY 31, 2022

Review: 3.5/5.0

Since the release of his self-titled album in 2012, Harley Streten, better known as Flume, has defined a decade of electronic music with out-of-this-world visuals and boundary-breaking beats and cuts. In his previous mixtape Hi This is Flume, Streten introduced himself over and over to the point of absurdity. The mixtape underscored Flume’s ear-catching, sometimes zany personal style while welcoming a more hallucinatory and distorting vision. 

On his third studio album Palaces, released May 20, Streten reintroduces this vision: one that personifies the artist’s lovely and unequivocal individuality while continuing to experiment with texture, attitude and sound.

Palaces encapsulates all of Streten’s successful recipes while twisting and turning through occasional oddity. The Australian artist’s bodacious attitude is the centerpiece of his music. He demonstrates his uniquely innovative skills as a producer as he breathes personality into reverbs, cuts and mixes. Tracks such as “Only Fans” are uncomfortably weird, while the instrumental “DHLC” is liquid smooth. It is difficult to surpass hits such as “Say It” and “Holdin On” from previous albums, but Palaces doesn’t feel like an album with that goal. Streten’s personality is on display, moving the listener through 10 years of emotion while still standing apart on its own.

Streten often brings other artists into his brilliant world, such as when he featured Beck on Skin. On “Sirens,” pop star Caroline Polachek sings from the heavens, cutting across the dazzling track at an angelic octave. “Sirens” is not Flume’s usual club beat found on his earlier albums, but it thrills with shrill twangs and snaps. Technically complex and dynamic, the track succeeds in deviating from Flume’s signature sound.

Catchy lyrics and easy listening beats are few and far between on this record, but this feels intentional. Skin was glittery, defined by iridescent instrumentals and pink and purple hues. Palaces feels heavier, with a louder and more abrasive tone. Perhaps it is meant to reconcile the built up tension and uneasiness felt within quarantine walls. The record was crafted in Streten’s Australian home during pandemic days, and it shows in the anxiety-laden tracks.

“Say Nothing,” featuring MAY-A and “Escape,” featuring Kučka vividly demonstrate these spiraling feelings. Both tracks keep a tighter pace with quick cuts and distorting breaks. With an almost dystopian atmosphere, many of the tracks feel like they’re crawling out of their own skin. Fans looking for uplifting or relaxing instrumentals are sorely mistaken.

“Only Fans,” featuring Virgen María, stands out as the most bizarre and out of pocket track Flume has ever produced. María introduces her “hotline” to the listener, reciting the number as 666-666-666. Through and through, the record provides odd social commentary about Instagram, OnlyFans and social media.

Electronic music is often brushed off for its supposedly thoughtless, carefree nature, so adding in a track that comments on the superficialities of social media definitely makes a statement. It is easy to see in Streten’s technical mixing and mastering that his work is especially thoughtful and unique. But even as “Only Fans” exemplifies his unapologetic and innovative personality when it comes to making music, it is just too weird for most to enjoy.

On the other hand, “Hollow,” featuring Emma Louise, sounds like old times. It is sonically soft, and Louise’s vocals compliment the record’s more delicate nature. The song builds up into an enchanting chorus that still showcases Streten’s mixing talents while avoiding raunchy cuts.

The final track, “Palaces,” featuring Damon Albarn, delivers a somber, reflective mood. With only a few lyrics and an almost robotic distortion on Albarn’s vocals, it’s another one of those tracks on the record that leaves the listener uneasy and unsatisfied.

Palaces is not sequestered to any genre, recipe or normal format for an electronic record. The record loudly relocates the anxieties, fervor and distance felt during early quarantine. Palaces may not be for everybody, but it is undoubtedly a thoughtfully built record that champions Streten as a powerful producer.

Contact Kaitlin Clapinski at 

LAST UPDATED

MAY 30, 2022


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