At the tender age of 21, Australian dance music sensation Flume is already catching a lot of attention. The up-and-comer, born Harley Streten, recently signed to Mom And Pop and now finds himself in the tricky position of transitioning from the single-hungry world of SoundCloud and YouTube to the more leisurely paced and far less forgiving universe of the album. While his self-titled debut has already been released in Flume’s native country, where it climbed to the No. 1 spot on the ARIA charts, and his track “Sleepless” is quickly approaching 2 million YouTube views, he’s still a relatively untested commodity in America. Instead of priming the pump with more singles or an EP, Flume has released a 15-song album that stretches out over nearly 50 minutes and blithely announces the producer’s large ambitions.
The album joyfully combines Streten’s interest in spacey synth-heavy sounds and hip-hop beats, leaving you not sure whether to stay seated and bob your head or to get up and dance. With contributions from artists like T.Shirt, Jezzabell Doran and Chet Faker, this album has an eccentric palette and shows off Streten’s wide-ranging tastes; if you can’t find something to enjoy here, you’re not looking hard enough. Flume kicks off with a song called “Sintra,” which sounds as if Flying Lotus and Shlohmo got together to do a collaboration. The seemingly off-beat percussion on the track converges effortlessly with the song’s high-pitched vocals, providing an upbeat tempo that builds just the right amount of tension for the rest of the album. The next song, “Holdin On,” evolves slowly, adding backup singers, complex percussion and alien-like voices that leave the listener eager for more—and luckily, there’s a lot more.
As the album progresses, you begin to see different aspects of Flume’s personality. The LP features many songs that have a distinct hip-hop feel to them, like “On Top,” which features NYC rapper T.Shirt, whose confident flow unites with Flume’s creeping, minimal beat to great effect. “Change” starts out with a beat that you can envision an ’80s b-boy breakdancing to and then effortlessly transitions into a mellow, techno breakdown and then back into an upbeat, spacey tune that sounds like something just begging for a Kid Cudi vocal.
Songs like “Left Alone,” “Sleepless,” “Stay Close” and “Ezra” slow down the tempo and showcase the ever-changing moods on Flume. “Sleepless,” the runaway YouTube hit, fades in soothingly and goes on to introduce the angelic voice of Jezzabell, who doesn’t overshadow Flume’s absorbing beats, unlike other featured artists on the album. “Stay Close,” my personal favorite, fades in with saxophone-like synth that quickly transitions into that chipmunk-like voice that you hear throughout the album. The gentle but uplifting beat can make even the most concentrated mind wander, and it flaunts Flume’s capabilities.
With his first album, Flume has done something very difficult: He’s presented a coherent but eclectic musical identity. In combining spacey electro-pop, ambient music, dubstep and hip-hop, he’s put himself on a shortlist next to artists, like the xx, James Blake and Flying Lotus, who are able to produce electronic music that moves fluidly between genres and styles while still maintaining a singular voice and vision. With the accomplishments that he’s achieved in his homeland, it is easy to imagine that Flume will do the same here.