Flume Pushes Boundaries Through Vulnerability in New Mixtape and Visualizer
BY SARAH LA’BERGE AND GRACE PREWITT
An MDMA trip filled with forest aliens, vibrant colors, a rainbow car, and melting identities: this is the Flume mixtape visualizer.
Going on a musical hiatus in 2017, after releasing his ARIA chart topping LP, Skin, the Australian producer had left fans wondering what was next.
Flume, a.k.a Harely Streten, finally made his return on March 20th, releasing a 42-minute mixtape titled, “Hi This is Flume,” which is accompanied by an eloquent visual directed by Streten’s very own friend and collaborator, Jonathan Zawada. The pairing of mediums has received high praise thus far, and through experimental sounds, maintaining motifs of his past releases, and including impeccable collabs. Flume seems to be proving that his audio/visual experiment is in fact, “Forrest aliens and MDMA” good.
Correction: it’s not just “Forest aliens and MDMA” good, it’s great. The mix begins with the title track, “Hi This Is Flume,” which gradually bombards your ears while Streten repeats the words of the title. Within the first half of the 0:18 second track, you hear layers upon layers of Flume introducing himself, instilling a feeling in listeners that they are truly about to embark on a journey due to the somewhat chaotic, but interesting nature of the layered, spoken words.
The clambering of the “Hi This Is Flume” eventually breaks apart into a kaleidoscope of sounds, creating a seamless transition to the next song, “Ecdysis.” While the strong bass in this song comes on almost immediately, it’s worth noting how the heaviness of the song is set over dreamy arpeggios of bright, silky sounds. In terms of visuals, it looks like you’re stranded in a desert after you’ve just popped the MDMA. The ground melts into itself, providing an array of shifting colors and texture.
The meaning behind the title, “Ecdysis,” refers to the process of shedding old skin. As mentioned before, Flume’s last release prior to the current mixtape was his LP, Skin. Is Flume telling us he’s a new Flume? Yeah, probably. It’s possible that the serious bass, paired with personal rap lyrics, may represent the trials and tribulations of what it takes to become brand new again. Similarly, the visual of the swaying desert ground (full of garbage and snake skins) serves to represent a new, fresh side of Flume that has emerged.
From the rubble appears a rainbow painted car with a license plate reading “300 ZEDEX.” Here, the sound of “Ecdysis” begins to morph into “High Beams,” which features a production collaboration with Australian producer HWLS, who had previously toured with Flume. Slowthai, a featured English rapper, delivers three driven verses throughout the song. A dark and light side work effortlessly together in this song, maintaining a balance of musical homeostasis that keeps the interests of melodic dubstep, rap, and bass fans alike.
The slightly asymmetrical layering of bright sounds start to separate at the end of “High Beams” and eventually resolve to bring us to the land of “Jewel,” which begins with fluid, droplet-like smooth sounds that are accompanied by liquid diamonds falling through the sky. The desert is still present, but this time with a forest of lifeless trees. When the drop hits, it throws the song into full potential, only to cascade back out and come to a pause. Once it resumes, it’s filled with vulnerability and nakedness, containing only the distorted vocal-like sound that listeners hear in the drop, which comes around once more.
In “Jewel,” there are shots of Flume cut between him wandering the wasteland and discovering water by unearthing the desert ground. It seems that Flume has found what he has been looking for. The track shows Flume bearing his heart on his aqua sleeve, as it is packed full of emotions that have been compressed and synthesized into flowing waves of sound.
Flume’s steady walk breaks out into a sprint in “Dreamtime.” As he searches under rocks and climbs a mountain, his face appears frustrated and exhausted, the heavy sun weighing down on him. Yet, he keeps running, eventually picking up the snake skin which seems to be following him. The airy sound that lies just beneath the surface carries listeners into a whirlwind of sound as atypical beats fall in and the rhythm subtly changes. Finally, Flume reaches the top of the mountain and a cloud of pink smoke meets him.
“Dreamtime” is a pivotal moment, both sonically and visually. When the beat drops, so do Flume’s arms as he pounds into a pool of mud with a shovel. We begin to see a hand and face emerge from the mud, yet Flume walks away with the shovel in hand, leaving the figure behind. Without a doubt, this is the most passionate, most desperate, and most symbolic Flume we have seen thus far.
During “Voices,” the trip inside the mixtape heightens as colors are changing and those forest aliens are introduced, one of which is a lobster. The track seamlessly transitions into “MUD,” again, bringing us a bass heavy, glitchy, weird sound with a subtly of “chill” on the side. The same style appears in following tracks, such as “Upgrade” and “71m3” which brings viewers to a microscopic level of color and movement.
“Vitality” comes along and breaks things up a bit, with a downtempo drop and synthesized vocals that flow over Flume’s beats. At this point, the trip is at its peak, comparable to orgasmic synesthesia, as every color and detail warps into another. If trap, melodic, and tribal all had a musical lovechild, it would be named “Daze 22.00.” It’s an interesting combination, but Flume’s production skills shine here, as all of the elements work together, rather than against each other, much like the infinity signs Flume creates with his car.
Flume’s ending song to the mixtape, titled, “Spring,” features bass artist Eprom once again. That signature Eprom sound appears, with waves of bass that sound like they’re being stretched, expanded, and minimized again in a matter of a second. Fittingly, Flume buries a version of himself in the sand. His new self is immersed into a new reality where oceans crash into mountains and the desert dances into the sky. The rainbow car from befores sinks into clear water, baptizing itself. Flume stumbles into the ocean and does the same, ending the epic journey of self-discovery.
In short, this audio visualizer is not for the electronic music newbie. Flume bares his heart to his listeners not through words, but through experimental sounds that push boundaries in terms of production, collaborations, and presentation. The production value and sound design in this mixtape is a craftsmanship that has potential to light a torch for future releases in the electronic community.
This Is Flume: honest, innovative, spacey, and transformative.
Lead Image Credit: Matsu
Article photos from ‘Hi This Is Flume Mixtape Visualiser’