By DeMarcus Cobb
Label: Future Classic
Release Date: May 27, 2016
Skin is the upcoming sophomore release from Flume, an electronic music producer based out of Australia. Besides his great solo success, Harley Streten was notably known as the other half of What So Not with Emoh Instead. We are finally given the follow up to Streten’s 2012 self-titled debut that has helped him achieve many awards, accolades and tour dates in the past four years. Within that time frame, Streten has definitely made his mark in the electronic music, further pushing the boundaries of crossover EDM like fellow crossover producers Flying Lotus, SOPHIE, Cashmere Cat, Lido, Ryan Hemsworth and ODEZA. These are just some of the tastemakers that have found the balance between mainstream pop hits while staying true to themselves.
Flume had a very strong influence on the Australian dance scene and is considered a forefront of the future bass genre that has taken Soundcloud by storm thanks to Future Classic’s all-star roster of forward-thinking producers. You have probably heard one of his more popular songs “Sleepless”. Now Harley Streten faced a dilemma many music pioneers may face after finding themselves in the spotlight. How does the originator continue to stick out when everyone is imitating your style? When everyone goes right, go left.
Now to the album, I can’t say I was satisfied with the album as a whole. It has its ups and downs and I cannot go much further beyond that. Don’t get me wrong; it is still a solid piece of work, but I expected more of a “wow” factor in the overall sound he was going for on this record.
Skin comes of as an album meant to be more of a listening experience. The wonky sound design was very captivating, but it fails to keep things exciting where they need to be. It feels like he may have tried a little too hard to cram in a bunch of commercial hits on one release. Great album indeed, with a diverse cast of features. Familiar names would be Beck, Vince Staples and Raekwon (hint: Wu-Tang). Canadian rapper Allan Kingdom lands another major feature on “You Know” (his first major feature was courtesy of Kanye West). As well as a couple more new faces from the likes of Kai, AlunaGeorge, Little Dragon and Vic Mensa.
“Helix” is an incredible album opener with a eerie oriental intro. You’re suddenly hypnotized by the warping arpeggiated synths, slowly but surely building up the tempo for the drop”.
Other standout tracks to me were “Take a Chance”, “Pika”, “3”, and “You Know”. I preferred the instrumental tracks way more than the features. While the featured artists definitely serve their purpose on their respective song, the track as a whole just sounds like something we’ve already heard on the radio. I was only impressed by Raekwon and Beck’s spotlight. All of the singers sort of serve as a travel guide to Flume’s progression, taking you from part A to Part B. Some lyrics come of as mediocre when you read them aloud such as Kai’s hook on “Take a Chance”, ”I’m only human can’t you see/I made, I made a mistake/Please just look me in my face/Tell me everything’s okay/Cause I got it/He’ll never be like you.” Nothing breathtaking but it fits the song well.
At 24 years-old, Harley still has a long career ahead of him. The music festival crowd loves him dearly (literally, he’s been all over the world already) but he admittedly wants to stray away from the EDM crowd that worshipped him and his duo What So Not. If you didn’t know, Harley was ½ of What So Not with Emoh Instead as as he began to release music under the Flume moniker. They made an indefinite mark on the EDM scene with hits such as “Touched”, “Tell Me” featuring RL Grime and “Gemini” featuring George Maple. WSN announced their separation via Facebook, citing creative differences.
As mentioned before, Skin has its ups and downs. The instrumental tracks gives Flume some room to show off his studio chops and progressive songwriting. Great piece of work but too many commercial songs for my liking personally, some have already been singles and played out since January (“Never Be Like You”and “Smoke and Retribution”). I give this album a 7/10 on first listen but perhaps it needs to grow on me. Highly recommended, although my review is average it has made it’s mark on the Billboard Charts, see below. Flume will also be performing at Austin City Limits Sep.30.
Five tracks from the album landed on the Billboard charts while Skin peaked at number one on the Dance Charts.