Flume’s full length songs, like those of many electronic dance musicians, are difficult to fully enjoy over laptop speakers within the confines of one’s bedroom.
One experiences his music at its fullest when surrounded by dozens of strangers in a roaring club — or, maybe a dozen close friends around a roaring bonfire.
This is to say that Flume’s latest project Skin, released Friday, has something to offer everyone. Featuring many of the same ingredients of his 2013 self-titled album, it’s clear from the get-go the Aussie producer is using mostly the same formula on Skin. This isn’t a bad thing by any stretch — why fix what isn’t broken, right?
Skin doesn’t stand out for Flume changing his magic formula, but for rather adding more of each ingredient into the mix. In other words, Skin is notably more bold and experimental than its predecessor. His melodies are less clean, less flowy and at times, even grimy. Flume also moves his percussion more to the forefront of the music, increasing both its presence and its polyrhythm.
Flume doesn’t completely abandon pop sounds completely. Tracks like “Never Be Like You ” and “Say It” fit this mold well, but it’s clear that unlike some other popular artists (looking at you, Drake), he took risks on this new LP. He also makes up for anything lost in mainstream listenability by allowing for a more intriguing listening experience overall.
The album kicks off with “Helix,” letting everyone know that Flume isn’t playing around. A peaceful flute sample greets the listener and a simple but powerful melody of synth and distorted vocals blends in to build a cinematic intro. A quick fade and then a different, more aggressive synth melody follows, percussion joins the mix as well and then chaos ensues. A breathtaking track, “Helix” captures the core of Flume’s artistry.
He then, rather ingeniously, transitions to “Never Be Like You,” a single off the album that’s more reminiscent of the pop songs like “Left Alone” that brought Flume to fame in the first place. The juxtaposition of these two unlike, yet quintessentially Flume-y tracks, sets the tone for the rest of the LP in that it demonstrates his ability to be both a hit-maker and an innovative trendsetter. Most songs on Skin follow one path or the other, but some manage to tread both paths at the same time.
One example of such a simultaneity comes on “You Know.” Allan Kingdom, who you should know from Kanye West’s “All Day” and Wu-Tang stalwart Raekwon flow effortlessly on Flume’s subtly gorgeous beat. Flume has shown tremendous poise and technique in his collaborations, always knowing when to let his cohorts shine and when it’s time for his production to do all the talking. “You Know” is no exception.
The last two tracks of the album don’t really form a grand finale, but rather an outro that gently carries the listener out of Flume’s musical whirlpool and onto safe ground.
He leaves the listener with “Tiny Cities.” Alongside Beck, Flume creates a delicate wall of melodies and textures that towers over listeners like a friendly giant. Beck croons, “Can I, should I find my way home” at the beginning of the track, perfect for the weary traveler, or even exile, finally making it back to where they once came from.
Skin is the type of project that somehow both rewards multiple listens due to its complexity, while still not requiring any effort on behalf of the listener. With this album, Flume has re-adjusted his trajectory from being one of the best current electronic artists to one of the best of all time.