Beats Per Minute: “Hi This Is Flume” shows glimpse at future potential

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Will Newbegin

“Hi This Is Flume” is the new mixtape from Australian electronic producer Flume.

Eleven times iterated, and this column is just now seeing its first review of an electronic project. Sorry for that, folks.

But then again, the surprise breakage of a two-year silence from the young Australia native, Flume warrants attention. Since his precocious 2012 self-titled debut — a goofy, electronic favorite of mine — Flume’s output has either failed to impress me or even beg a listen.

Now he returns, with two of 2018’s hottest musical meteorites in tow — rapper JPEGMAFIA and producer SOPHIE lend their capitalized names to the track list. Collectively, they have helped Flume compile the single-best project of electronic this year.

Don’t let the relatively-short 38-minute run time fool you; this is a dense record. Packed into each little corner of the tape are thick, overwhelming mixes of synth. The usual, paced accoutrements of an IDM record season underlying synth drones in the form of glitchy, video game chip tune; shimmering harp strums; and electronic drum pad fills.

Flume’s attention to detail at most every juncture is apparent. Not a second of “Hi This is Flume” escapes without some impression. Every track presents some instrumental complexity, either as a brief turn of phrase, or for the most part, a whole song. With a diverse instrumental toolkit, Flume creates sonic murals that engulf the listener not just as a passive observer, but rather as an active participant. This immersion is the project’s most rewarding feature. Repeat listens unveil even further layers — a musical Mashtroyka doll with no seeming end.

“Jewel” embodies such depth better than any other track. A shrieking, doleful keyboard lead is overcome by glowering horizons of mournful synth. The track shifts, presenting an mournful eastern melody through fuzzy, sampled horn sounds. The whole thing feels elegiac. In Flume’s warped take on a funeral dirge, he conceptualizes death through contradiction. The song is orderly, yet chaotic; direct, yet abstract; beautiful, yet vulnerable.

Similar effect is present on the mixtape’s other highlights. Flume remixes SOPHIE’s stellar 2018 avant-garde pop track “Is It Cold in the Water?” to caustic effect. The chilling whirlpools of synth and vocal loops evoke some transcendental, out-of-body experience of being submerged into ice water on psychedelics. Substitute a sensory deprivation tank, if you like.

Therein lies this mixtape’s greatest strength. Few songs — like the JPEGMAFIA-led “How to Build a Relationship,” which tailors a scathing digital instrumental to the rapper’s aggressive delivery sublimely — present any cogent emotional expression. Where Flume realizes the full effect of his music is in the sum of disparate elements that compile towards a thoughtful, abstract musical image. When he creates a fully-realized concept, this mixtape is supreme.

Much of this has to do with the songwriting on “Hi This is Flume,” where the artist will haphazardly bounce around shift thematically and sonically several times in the course of a single track. At some junctures, the off-kilter shifts are a welcome surprise and create an engaging listen. At others — like “MUD” and “Amber” — it feels choppy and overt with no significant intention. Though, this mixtape is such not quite sure if I can pin down what distinguishes the two categories.

Additionally, numerous entries in the track list feel merely anecdotal. Though every song has some instrumental merit, sure, Flume is guilty of not grooming certain tracks to full potential. “╜φ°⌂▌╫§╜φ°⌂▌╫§╜φ°⌂▌╫§╜φ°⌂▌╫§╜φ°⌂▌” — yes, this is the track’s name — and “71M3” are head-scratchingly short defiances of their producer’s sonic inspiration.

Yet this mixtape represents a well-timed stepping stone in the producer’s discography. A return to form since recent stumbles, “Hi This is Flume” offers extremely thoughtful, forward-thinking material from one of electronic music’s most talented— if not inconsistent — producers. Should Flume choose to incorporate more features that keep his own ideas from running stale or to focus his songwriting strategy, I think his potential is immense.

RATING: 4/5

TL;DR: It was an exceptional and eventful couple of weeks in music. Be sure to check out some of the records below.

“Punk,” CHAI: 4.5/5

“High Anxiety,” Oozing Wound: 3.5/5

“LP3,” American Football: 2/5

“Bad Habits,” Nav: No/5

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