After 4 years, Harley Streten, better known as Flume, has released “Skin”, his follow up to his self-titled debut album. Known for revitalizing electronic music and brining the “Australian Sound” to the forefront, on this new effort Streten goes for a bigger scope to his music, bringing in more vocalists and a slew of new sonic textures. Here is a track by track review of “Skin”:
Helix: Extremely cinematic and great way to start the album with the mixture of the vocal leads and the distorted pan flutes. The tone shifts with a barrage of arpeggios followed by high energy trap-like drum sequencing that screams to played in a live setting. Harley has been playing this one as an intro too in live sets and it’s easy to see why.
Never Be Like You ft. Kai: Released as the first single of the album, Kai’s vocals are delicate against the hanging chords and heavy off- kilter beats. Great on its own, especially with the lyrics given by Kai, yet in the track listing it does stick out like a sore thumb as Harley leans a little too close to common pop sensibilities in comparison to the other tracks on Skin.
Lose It ft. Vic Mensa: Mensa’s dynamic vocal performance perfectly matches up with Harley’s production on this, filled with the wonky saw synths and off-the-wall percussion choices. One of my favorites of the record.
Numb & Getting Colder ft. Kučka: The crown jewel of “Skin”. Super dark and industrial instrumental. Kučka’s shifted vocals are amazing and demands attention. For this tune, Harley wanted to mix experimental music with pop sensibilities and it’s perfectly executed on Numb & Getting Colder. No more needs to be said.
Say It ft. Tove Lo: A well-built song in its own right, but like Never Be Like You it sticks out in the track listing with its pop feeling. Tove Lo does, however, gives a solid vocal melody.
Wall Fuck: A prime example of how Harley improved his instrumental game. Harley plays with sound design on this one, wanting to create something “that sound[s] like the fabric of the universe tearing,” with tons of metallic cracks and distortion. Towards the end there are some synth swells layered on the constant vocal sample that make the listener feel like they are going for a ride. Long story, short; this song bumps.
Pika: My favorite instrumentals on the LP. After the heavy and thumping ‘Wall Fuck’, ‘Pika’ comes in with a sprite-like melody line that is super refreshing. And the vocal line echoes something that could have fit snuggly on Flume’s first LP. Only down side that it’s so short at a runtime of 1:56.
Smoke & Retribution ft. Vince Staples and Kučka: ‘Skin’ goes back to the dark and distorted on this one. Vince gangsta rap lyrics paired the minimal electro beat is A+. Kučka makes another appearance on this track and gives a good contrast against Staples’ aggressive performance. Lots of energy given through on this track.
3: Coming in with bright chimes and Harley’s own sultry vocal line, “3” is another good example of the artist’s improved instrumental skills. When the beat comes in its lumbering and clunky filled with signature Flume sounds, the song feels like a true continuation of the material found of his first album.
When Everything Was New: The song does manage to capture the feeling of nostalgia on this one and it gives Flume an opportunity to show off his ambient side, but its feels like a sonic detour that didn’t need to be taken. In my opinion, the weakest instrumental.
You Know ft. Allan Kingdom and Raekwon: Harley goes back to his hip hop roots on this one and it works out extremely well. Kingdom and Raekwon have very distinct voices and give strong verses. In the who LP though, the track seems to get lost amongst the glitzier songs.
Take a Chance Ft. Little Dragon: Speaking of glitzy, this is one of the most brightly produced songs on the album. However, it works amazingly. Yukimi Nagano’s vocals are heavenly and the chords supporting her are perfect as she asks “Will you be the one to take a chance?” Another highlight on Skin.
Innocence ft. AlunaGeorge: It took me a while to get the feel of this track, with its obvious influence from 2-step garage. However, after a few listens, it truly comes together. This song is dark and very icy. And of course AlunaGeorge performs well with her childlike voice.
Like Water ft. MNDR: Amanda’s chants proclaiming “You’re all I need, all I need” are well paired against the laid back beat. Unfortunately, the song does feel unsatisfying once your reach the end.
Free: First time I heard this song was during the live stream of Flume’s set at Coachella, and I was blown away. The persistent synth line and kick drums have a lot of power and surly will go over well in future live sets. I do think that “Free” doesn’t translate too well on the LP, but it’s clear that it was meant to be played live.
Tiny Cities Ft. Beck: Beck’s vocals hinder the song a bit, as you really can’t understand what he says at some points, but instrumentally, “Tiny Cities” is top notch. The instrumental feels at one point that you are floating in space, hovering over earth seeing the tiny cities Beck tries to describe. A very somber way to end the LP.
Overall “Skin” is a lot more expansive of an album that “Flume” was. Harley tries to draw influence from a lot of different genres and sometimes it works well (Innocence) but other times it falls flat (Say It). It is very clear to me that the music for this album is geared towards a live setting and I am sure that it will work well in that environment. It’s unfortunate that Flume is heading away from the intimate and downtempo music of the first album, which I really enjoyed, but he is an artist who is trying to grow and he is going into a direction where I feel he has opportunities to do so.
Favorite Tracks: Lose It, Numb & Getting Colder, Wall Fuck, Pika, 3, Take a Chance
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