The Australian producer’s latest gets stuck between innovation and the urge to party like it’s 2014
It has now been over a year since visionary producer SOPHIE passed away, taking with her that unique sonic sensibility which threw club culture into a meat grinder. Although he’s more aligned with the mainstream, Australian-born Harley Streten, aka Flume, is perhaps her closest equivalent these days, and new album Palaces spends much of its runtime melding gnarly drops and melodious songwriting in a manner that won’t surprise his fansin the slightest.
Opening track Highest Building contains an earworm hook followed by a clumsy synth line that seems to mock its cadence, while I Can’t Tell alternates between a shuddering, rumbling trap beat and moody break-up lyrics. Caroline Polachek sounds characteristically angelic on Sirens, and a sleepy-sounding Damon Albarn punctuates the slow build of the title track. But for a producer as able as Flume, many of these songs feel like uninspired pandering.
There is more of note in the instrumental offerings as DHLC’s spasmodic synth hits bounce enjoyably off squelching bass hits and phased hi-hats, while Get U moves from an abrasive, Container-esque first half to a more mellow soundbed utilising the Arcade vocal loop from Lil Tjay’s Calling My Phone. Only Fans is by far the best vocal track, as Virgen Maria solicits over haphazard thuds and distorted bass (“hi bitch, you’re not me / will never, will never, will never be / you’re just a puta wannabe / I’m the bitch, puta queen bee”), a glimpse at what could be if Flume was less interested in packing stadiums.
EDM trap came and went leaving few survivors, but in some cases it served as a gateway to more great music – see the brilliant Bauuer record Planet’s Mad. Flume is stuck between innovation and the urge to party like it’s 2014, and though Palaces has real highlights, it is weakened by this indecision.