Flume, Skin | Album Review
Flume flexes his tremendous musicianship and production skills on well-rounded, eclectic sophomore LP, Skin.
“I try to keep Flume far from the EDM world.” Say what? Flume (aka Harley Streten) , an EDM artist, speaks against the genre which best describes his style. Why? Ultimately, the Australian DJ/producer wants his music to reach further; transcend “commercial EDM.” Sophomore album Skin has received the approval of most critics. Skin even cracks Rolling Stone magazine’s 45 Best Albums of 2016 So Far (# 38).
Skin didn’t make The Musical Hype’s 25 Best Albums of 2016 (So Far). After much hype and superb single “Never Be Like You,” It was time to give Skin a listen. Ultimately, it was a prudent decision. There’s plenty to love about Skin.
“Never Be Like You”
“Helix” brilliantly initiates Skins, beginning enigmatically and evolving into a full-fledged, bass-heavy banger. The musicianship Flume showcases stretches the EDM script. Classically idiomatic arpeggiations serve as catalyst and transition into the hard-hitting hip-hop conclusion.
Prudently “Never Be Like You” (featuring Kai) follows, giving Skin its first vocal record. A mix between urban, pop, and electronic cues, Flume masterfully synthesizes all. Kai paints Flume’s production radiantly, flexing with f-bombs and flaunting her upper register.
“Lose It” flips the script from urban-pop to gritty hip-hop thanks to ferocious production and give no f*cks rhymes from Vic Mensa. This contrast shows Flume’s range as a production, not to mention his eclecticism. It doesn’t supplant “Never Be Like You” nor does it fall flat.
“Numb & Getting Colder” opens agitated – mysterious and unsettling. Things grow more stable… at least somewhat. Kučka’s vocals are drenched in effects, amplifying the experimental nature of the record. Ambitious, Flume deserves credit for thinking outside of the box.
“Say It” gives Skin another highlight – “Never Be Like You” level. It doesn’t hurt that burgeoning artist Tove Lo is featured. On her “A-game”, Tove Lo is perfectly suited to this sick sensual jam where she should go, but can’t simply resist:
“When you say it like that/got me falling right back/…let me f*ck you right back”
Besides the sassy vocal performance, the production clicks on all cylinders from the warm and fuzzy synths to the clattering drums.
“Wall F*ck” easily wins the award for the best song title (the power of the f-bomb). “Wall F*ck” sounds like a mind-f*ck of sorts, mixing an assortment of sounds and ideas. Flume flexes his muscles here, and it’s all biceps! The brief “Pika” follows, once more allowing Flume to show off his skill as a producer without a vocalist to complement. It’s not the most profound moment of Skin, but a respectable interlude.
“Smoke & Retribution”
“Smoke & Retribution” arrives timely, featuring Vince Staples & Kučka. The edgier more bombastic sound amplifies the energy level. While energy wasn’t lost on “Wall F*ck” or “Pika,” the sheer biting rhymes of Vince Staples gives the track and album a lift. Instrumental “3” is pleasant – in the quirkiest way. “3” has an oxymoronic element – its groove is stable and constant throughout, but yet the record sounds “off” and left of center throughout its course. Genius. Brief, follow up instrumental “When Everything Was New” keeps things rolling without a hitch.
Like “Smoke & Retribution,” “You Know” (featuring Allan Kingdom & Raekwon) arrives after two instrumental joints. To the same effect, if not greater, “You Know” can be likened to being a hype man who energizes the crowd. Soundly conceived, though rappers Allan Kingdom and Raekwon contrast in style, the union proves to be stellar. As always, Flume’s production is on-point, particularly the intense backdrop served up for the MCs.
“Take a Chance”
Vocal production is one of the many strong suits of “Take a Chance” featuring Little Dragon. Additionally, the use of lush, bright, and bursting synths doesn’t hurt the song’s cause. The lengthy “Innocence” (featuring AlunaGeorge) continues to show Flume’s love of rhythm with its hypnotic groove. At over six minutes, the innocence lasts too long. Even so, the listener is mesmerized by Flume’s never-ceasing driving rhythms.
Three more respectable songs conclude Skin: “Like Water” (featuring MNDR), “Free,” and “Tiny Cities” (featuring Beck). Like everything else, the production is top-notch, something Flume never screws up (expectedly). The trio isn’t the crème de la crème of Skin, but still respectable with Flume’s liberal spirit continuing to shine. Another reason these three aren’t the caliber of highlights of say “Never Be Like You” is the fact they appear at the end of an hour-long album.
All in all, Skin is a worthwhile listen through and through. There are ample moments that should please most listeners given Flume’s eclecticism, whether they are pop, hip-hop, or instrumental. There aren’t any glaring flaws, though Skin runs long, even at an hour. Had Skin been condensed, it would’ve been even more favorable. Regardless, Flume does work here.
Gems: “Helix,” “Never Be Like You,” “Lose It,” “Say It” & “You Know”
Flume • Skin • Mom+Pop • Release: 5.27.16