15 Track, LP (2012, Future Classic)
For a first-time outing from such a young producer, this album was subjected to a fair bit of hype and wishful thinking on its release. It was saddled with claims of a new vanguard for Australian electronica, mostly from people, it seemed, who since Cut Copy hadn’t bothered checking out the brilliant work blaring from their own backyard. A little bit of space between the album’s One Direction-topping iTunes debut and now is helpful, then, not least for putting the brakes on such breathless claims but also for a more circumspect appreciation of its achievements.
Because, ultimately, this self-titled album is a promising if uncertain debut for young beatmaker Harley Streten, eager to please everyone and yet, in doing so, often coming off a bit generic. Streten has a good ear for sounds and deploys vocal samples well, but is still finding his way around as a producer, often genre-hopping from one track to the next, covering everything from UK bass to neo-soul, rap bangers to hypnagogic synth-pop, FlyLo jazziness to introspective trip-hop. The result is an album that is more of an enthusiastic playlist than a consistent statement, marked by a few choice cuts and a couple of iffy selections, but the majority falling somewhere in between.
The best moments are when Flume indulges a playful, maximalist tendency. The full-blown thump of opening pair ‘Sintra’ and ‘Holdin On’, the latter driven by a spot-on Otis Redding sample, hits hard, heading toward that sweet spot between future club and hip-hop bombast that TNGHT has perfected. Deeper in, things get a little patchy, mostly from publicist-pleasing guest vocals and ill-advised stylistic cul de sacs, the plodding sadtronica of Chet Faker featuring ‘Left Alone’ case in point.
Whilst everything is crisply produced, there’s also something a bit antiseptic and calculated about it, the compositions often failing to really excite. And whilst the best tracks hit hard, so much of it just falls off like molten silver sliding down a furnace. You definitely get the sense that Flume is still working out who he wants to be as a producer, trying to find the right home for his precocious technical sensibility and sense of playfulness. If he manages that, perhaps the next release might really be a future classic.
by Lawson Fletcher