words by Bernie Bolger

Four years after releasing his debut self-titled album, Australia’s electronic music sweetheart Flume gifts us with a sophomore release Skin (named after loose ideas around sound textures and familiarity vs the alien), a beautiful electronic, post-trap, pop fusion piece.

The years in between original releases saw Harley dabble in some amazing and extraordinary sounds in his remixes, reminding his fans that he’s still got it. The hype and expectation surrounding Skin may have altered its fate however. Writing original music for Flume proved a much harder project than the odd remix, especially when your debut album was a game-changer.

On Skin, Flume has consciously switched up his sound so as to continue to be fresh, and the end result is a weird battle of sounds. The thread that ties the album together might not be apparent in a consistent vibe, though it does exist. These 16 tracks have been picked from the rose garden of recent productions to curate the bouquet of Skin.

There are some pure pop cuts equipped with clean production and sing along vocals that beg for radio attention. The lyrical and anthemic ‘Never Be Like You’ and ‘Say It’ are obvious candidates. Then there are the tracks in which Flume set out to create a “landscape” of sorts, with melody being secondary to the feel of the piece (see: ‘Wall fuck’, ‘Pika’, ‘When Everything Was New’ and ‘Free’)
It’s these tracks that advance and mature his sound, rather than the previous ones.

It is a joy to hear the sweet spot in-between the experimental and the consumable with his creations and it definitely is hit with a number of tracks on the listing. ‘Numb & Getting Colder’ is an absolute highlight. Kučka’s tri-toned vocal line sits atop beautifully melodic synth lines whilst a very minimal, industrial beat cuts in and out of the mix. Another instance of the “sweet-spot” and where a collaboration is pulled of in spectacular fashion is ‘Innocence’ with AlunaGeorge. It’s a hypnotic, brooding slower number with an irregular beat that suits the ethereal yet unnerving vibe of the song. ‘Take a Chance’ featuring Little Dragon is another great collaborator cut even whilst sailing close to the top 40 wind.

The more familiar sounding songs on the album: ‘Helix’ and ‘3’ are far from stale – in-fact – Flume could produce a whole album of these beats (we know he has plenty stored away) and do no wrong. Both have great structural progressions and convey emotion through synthetic instrumentation beautifully.

As a producer, it is no surprise that Flume wishes to work with rappers. Despite this proven (and quite formulaic) pairing of genre, ‘Lose it’, ‘Smoke and Retribution’ and ‘You Know’ all feel disjointed in their assembly. There seems to be a glass ceiling with flume rap tracks that demands mediocrity. The production is no doubt stellar on each one of these songs; however, it feels like having a Flume-beat as a backing to these features dampens the potential of the songs. ‘Lose It’ comes closest to breaking this mould with a very catchy chorus and a couple of great twists and turns structure-wise; not to mention a signature synth solo at the end.

Skin is gorgeous – if not in its skewed ambition, then its high production level. The album has a pretty high ‘replay-ability’ because of it, and with further listens, more nuanced touches are revealed. The maturation of Flume’s sound is a delight to behold, even if that means saying goodbye to the soundtrack of your beloved 2012 summer.

Rating: ★★★★

Flume’s massive World Tour kicks-off this weekend in Germany (find all details on that through here), and you can get yourself a copy of his new album now through Future Classic.

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