Hey, This Really Is Flume

Back with a bang, Flume's new mixtape is about as good as it gets

Andrew Ring


f the opening sample of Harley Streten’s voice makes anything clear, it’s that his first official release in over two years is set to be something entirely out of the ordinary... at least in the traditional sense.

Dropping yesterday with barely 24 hours lead-up, the 38-minute long mixtape and accompanying visuals, ‘Hi This Is Flume’ provides us as clear an indication as any of the version of Flume that he himself is most comfortable being.

Despite the commercial success of his 2016 sophomore album ‘Skin’, there was an underlying feeling that the constraints of an album hampered the creative direction that Flume wanted to pursue, and despite it’s quality the albums tracklist showed a crisis of direction and purpose.

Mismatching commercial tracks with the overly experimental was never going to work, and despite the obvious talents that Streten possesses for developing soundscapes, his inability to stick to a theme seriously hampered the LP’s overall feel.

With the release of ‘Hi This is Flume’ that lack of surety has vanished, replaced instead by a masterpiece of wonky drum-heavy tracks that are only elevated by the “what the fuck” nature of their accompanying visuals.

The visual pairing is itself a journey of exploration, rebirth, and discovery. Shot and graded by Perth creative Matsu Photo’s, its ability to build and enhance the music cannot be understated.

The level of synchronicity between the two mediums adds a whole new level to connecting to the music, often making the shorter 1-2 minute long tracks come across as the most imaginative.

If you’re looking for the best experience from this mixtape then watching the videos is all but essential.

The tracks themselves build the most of the wonky, intentionally offbeat themes best seen in Skin’s most misplaced track Wall Fuck.

Streten’s notable skills with hip-hop production shines with features from JPEGMAFIA and slowthai, the latter appearing on High Beams, produced jointly fellow Future Classic label-mate HWLS.

Scottish producer SOPHIE makes a number of appearances throughout the mixtape, having previously supported Streten on his home tour of Australia in late 2016.

The first coming from an elegant remix of her track Is It Cold In The Water by Streten and fellow boundary breaker EPROM, the second featuring frequent Flume collaborator and former Perth resident Kucka, whose staggered vocals takes Voices to strange new places.

Streten delivers this music with aplomb, highlighting a mastery at conveying both the giddy and the surreal.

It’s a harsh and unforgiving journey for one’s senses with the aforementioned heavy drums prominent throughout, more often than not elevated to the fore of the track. A serious emphasis is placed on off-kilter and often warbled synth and snare patterns which are arranged in a way that is almost impossible to properly comprehend.

These ideas have been flirted with before, but as one journeys through Streten’s world there is a sense that they had never been fully explored until now.

Mud and Vitality stand out as the most abrasive tracks he has made this far, but there is a semblance of order within the coursing, blistering chaos.

It’s a style that all but ardent fans will have never heard of until now, and it’s likely to test the loyalty of even the most emphatic of Streten’s adoring disciples. Yet after you get past the aggressive nature of music that almost seems to be daring you to dislike it, there is serious beauty within.

Spring moves only slightly past that abrupt confrontational sound to delight with synth work that is the closest the mixtape gets to sounding anything like the Flume of past.

The more attentive fans will recognise Amber and Jewel from previously teased videos and Streten’s 2018 Falls shows. The synths are more drawn out, not crushed under the weight of countless dissonant snares as with many of the other tracks, providing brief breathing space on a mixtape that is mostly a short but rampant attack on one’s senses.

There is something brazen and uplifting about the risks Streten has taken on this mixtape. It feels, in no uncertain terms, that he is one of few producers out there ever capable of pulling such experimentation off.

To accomplish it so well, and with such coherence, is a true testament to the creativity of all involved. This mixtape should put to bed any lingering questions about this man’s ability to capture and craft the surreal.

Flume is without question of electronic music’s true boundary breakers, content not just to push the envelope, but tear it up and put it back together in a way that only he knows works. It is a true wonder to experience a man that is once again leaps and bounds ahead of the curve.