[Album Review] Flume – Skin

Flume Skin Album Review

Nearly four years after the self-titled debut of Flume‘s mind-bending full length LP, the top Australian export finally marks his sophomore return with ‘Skin’. With 11 collaborators spanning over 16 tracks, Harley Streten has gone all out to overcome the age-old fear of sophomore slump. ‘Skin’ is a genuine showcase of maximalism and is equally well-orchestrated which acts upon the producer’s strongest points.

The sophomore effort is expansive and an intensive sonic ride which makes mechanism and reality converge. And boy, is the end result spectacular! A man who has stayed true to his knack for experimentation, gives his all on this record to place himself as one of the very few artists to connect the ‘underground’ and ‘pop’ realm all at once; and that too with such fluid-like ease.

Helix’ welcomes you into Flume’s world, and what might possibly be one of the best introductions to an entire LP journey. A surreal effort on its own, gleaming synthesizers streaming trails of white noise, wonderfully cinematic makes you think, as arpeggios accelerate and an enormous synth lead becomes supernova.

Next up is the first single off the album, ‘Never Be Like You’ which already has garnered massive attention by the audience all over the world. The first vocal feature which comes in the form of star Aussie talent Kai, Flume balances his love for future bass elements with ambient noises and hands over an extended spotlight on the vocals.

One of the most exciting tracks on the album, ‘Lose It’ is a collaboration with Vic Mensa and is his take on R&B infused into his warped production. With throbbing build-ups, exceptional bars by Vic and an earth shattering drop, the track explores multiple sonic boundaries, but remains to be unapologetically, Flume.

‘Numb & Getting Colder’ features Aussie talent Kučka and once you’re done with it, you need some time to soak it all in. Premiered live on air by the two collaborators on Annie Mac’s radio show, it might just be one of the highlights of the extensive record and feels like an anthem like ballad which makes use of vocals in such ingenious fashion to give its own deserved space to co-exist within Flume’s atmospheric production. Simple, yet hauntingly beautiful.

‘Say It’ with Tove Lo makes a rather early appearance and feels a little out of place, as far as sounding cohesive goes. Harley gives the entire spotlight on the Swedish vocal talent as her joyous yet far-stretched vocals act as the muse for the skittering snares and the twinkling arpeggios which shine bright. A radio-friendly record which works in an effortless fashion, the producer manages to strike a chord within the commercial space.

And now back to his happy experimental phase, ‘Wall Fuck’ is incredible and as Flume said about the record, “My goal with this song was to create sounds that sound like the fabric of the universe tearing. Then turn them into a song.” A track which twists and turns and rips through sonic boundaries in the most extravagant manner possible, it sounds like a hyper ambient dream.

Track number 7 on the album, ‘Pika’ behaves oddly but acts as a near-perfect interlude to the heavy proceedings that have flowed into your ears until now. An exploration of sorts made possible by an odd vocal sample played on top of a repetitive yet beautiful melody and concludes on a somber note.

‘Smoke & Retribution’, with Vince Staples and Kučka is a powerful three-way collaboration which has its own high points but fails to stick inside your head. The production, a hyperactive and exciting one, Vince’s effort does seem to fall short before the Aussie talent comes in during the bridge.

Next up is 3. A throwback to his experimental notion, Flume shows off his most exciting yet eerie side and all it frankly needs is a Chet Faker feature. But then, who’s complaining. With bumpy percussion elements complimenting wonky chord structures in seminal fashion, this track feels like old fashioned love. And please, don’t get me wrong there.

When Everything Was New sees an uncharted entry into cinematic soundscapes and is a breather for the listeners as it resonates, and in sound manner. While it successfully acts as an interlude, the tenth track on the LP does leave you nostalgic. With airy synths taking over on top of voice samples of children playing and other worldly noises, it is ought to make you feel some sort of way.

‘You Know’ is a strong experimental hip-hop record and features Kingdom and Raekwon of Wu-Tang Clan on the vocal duties. Two extremely talented artists who take control over a dark, robust production deliver an end product that oozes raw energy. Next up is ‘Take A Chance’ in collaboration with Little Dragon who have delivered on every single occasion. And believe me or not, they’re yet to disappoint. A highly contrasting track as compared to its predecessor, vocalist Yukimi Nagano shines on this exemplary record and feels equally dazzling yet melancholic to hear.

The lengthiest feature on the record which clocks in at over six minutes, ‘Innocence’ featuring AlunaGeorge is sinister and might just be one of Aluna’s best vocal efforts yet backed by an immaculate Flume production. The track may not be amongst the biggest winners on the expansive record, but it sincerely deserves a place of its own, and is one of the few tracks which embodies a progressive feel to it in explicable fashion.

Like Water‘ grows on you, not on the first listen but give it a try once more and youll exactly know why. The sparkling vocals of MNDR aka Amanda Warner feed off the energy of imploding synths and does succeed at revamping’s Flume’s eccentric pop potential.

Free’ kills. A track which came to life as Harley broke free from his writer’s block, this three minute instrumental is heavily distorted and beautifully crafted with larger than life build-ups and a highly emotive breakdown.

As the curtain draws down, we are treated to ‘Tiny Cities’, an elusive collaboration with Beck. And as dynamic as it feels like when you are met with these two artists on the same bill, it delivers, and that too, in spectacular fashion. 15 tracks gone by, Harley leaves on a somber yet powerful note as lyrics read never meant to be. Becks ethereal vocals are met with a crisp production and is a fitting end to the roller coaster journey i.e. Skin.

Skin’ gives us a more comprehensive portrait of who Flume as an artist is. Not the first time he has made a case for how pop and experimental worlds can co-exist, look no further than tracks like ‘Never Be Like You’ & ‘Say It’. Mind you, this isnt Flume making bangers but sheer masterpieces and what his legacy will ultimately embody. An LP which follows the footsteps of taking listeners on an immersive journey, Skin is a winner and checks all the right boxes. A clear front runner in the Album of the Year race, fellow artists might just be feeling the heat already.

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