AOTW Review :: Flume
November 8th 2012
Over the last couple of years, there’s been a bit of an eye opener for music snobs such as this reviewer. It turns out that thanks to people like AlunaGeorge, Disclosure, Bondax and Flume, it’s possible to non-ironically fall in love with pop music. These producers and their many peers around the world have developed a sound that pulls together the groove of funk and hip hop, the bass and skittering glitchiness of UK garage, and the melody and chord progressions of pop. Vitally, they’ve taken that blend and spread their incredibly creative selves all over the whole thing, which is exactly what pop needs.
If you haven’t won some sort of Australia’s Got Idol Factor type show, then there seems to be a couple of timeless ways to go about capturing a mainstream audience. Option number one is to capture the fire of youth’s eternal “screw you, Mum” attitude by hitting the obnoxious (though admittedly enjoyable) ‘rebellion’ button a la grunge/metal/American style dubstep. Alternatively, you can make something that’s musically interesting enough for the blogs to bother writing a backlash post about you when you get famous, while simultaneously hitting all the catchy, radio-friendly melodies that people can handle. Lana Del Rey could probably explain that one more eloquently.
What’s happened with Flume and his peers is closer to the second option than anything else, but surprisingly enough there doesn’t seem to be much for anyone to latch onto when it comes to the backlash. The sound brings melodies that hit all the same notes as radio pop, but somehow don’t seem as obvious, and never leaves behind that that sickly sweet over-produced taste. In fact these melodies often don’t even contain words – just snippets of vocals that have been twisted and stretched into incredible reincarnations of their earthly forms, transcending the unaltered voice yet somehow making human hearts swell in the most natural way. Underneath the catchy surface is absolutely some of the most creative electronic music that has been heard in a long time. It’s impossible to fault. Music is at its most rewarding when it’s passionate and unexpectedly creative, and this movement in sound does all that in an accessible way, without alienating the underground.
Flume’s debut album plants an authoritative stamp on this new sound as it infiltrates the Australian electronic music scene. Most importantly, it’s just an incredible collection of sounds. The impassioned voice of a fellow activist in this future pop movement joins Flume’s heartbreaking production on ‘Left Alone feat. Chet Faker’. The powerful hip hop groove is undeniable. But to find your whole body jerking forward while your neck snaps back on every beat seems almost paradoxical in comparison with the way the song makes your soul swell up in your chest as your eyebrows furrow. It’s things like these that make the record a special one.
Songs like ‘Stay Close’ and ‘Change’ run on a similar formula to the favourite, ‘Sleepless’ – erratic, shuffling beats under floaty harmonies, and twisted vocals that slide around in impossible patterns. Flume could easily stick with that hook and be a successful one trick pony with all the marketing he has behind him, but the fact that he pushes into more experimental yet equally memorable areas is a testament to his role as a genuinely creative composer.
About two-thirds of the way through the record, a track called ‘More Than You Thought’ hits, and it’s a perfect example of why Flume is exciting. An assumption-filled first impression of the song might write it off as bassy banger. Really though, how many bassy bangers are there that sound like a monstrous sea snake thrashing about in space while the voices of African tribe members singing worship songs permeate the beast, making it stronger as the track progresses? Not one sir.
Put simply, the music of Flume and his peers around the world is unprecedentedly creative and makes people feel incredible. If this movement in sound continues to grow as a whole, it will of course find itself warping, shifting and appropriating itself to different audiences. Regardless of how many left turns are taken though, things can only get more interesting for pop music.