It’s been more than a year since Harley Streten (aka Flume) released his mixtape Hi This Is Flume. After several more listens, and having rightfully let this piece of art simmer in our heads for a couple more months, now is probably the best time to revisit Harley Streten’s latest long work. Our Flume Hi This is Flume review hints at a more experimental and less pop-oriented sound. This record symbolizes Flume’s desire to show that his music is still as authentic and experimental as when he started out. Benefitting from befitting collaborations, and an even fresher wonky sound, this Grammy-nominated mixtape takes the listener beyond the realms of traditional electronic music. In the same vein as both Skin Companion EP I & 2, Hi This Is Flume is much more explorative and polished. Certainly more than the few radio-tailored singles the Aussie recently released.

Flume himself doesn’t hide away from the fact that this mixtape is a renewal of sorts. After a 30-second podcast-like prologue where the Aussie tirelessly repeats “Hi This Is Flume”, the track “Ecdysis” (literally meaning the process of shedding the old skin in reptiles), kicks in with a somewhat addictively looped arpeggiator. Right off the bat, we get a sense of what our ears will be exposed to for the next 30 minutes or so. Detuned saw waves, glitchy effects, blips and blops… Most of the tracks on this mixtape are snippets, seemingly unfinished ideas that leave our mouths watering for what’s to come. It seems as though Streten wants to tease us with his versatile ideas and ever-changing sound. Probably also on how he plans to surprise the electronic music world yet again. Collaborations with Slowthai, HWLS, JPEGMAFIA and Kučka provide voices that are seamlessly combined with Streten’s hard hitting beats and ingenuous melodies.

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Flume’s Hi This Is Flume is a mixtape that delivers. The overall sound is uplifting, high in emotions, and even sensual at times. It almost feels like synthesizers, unusual textures and percussions sounds are talking to each other. Furthermore, this has a lot to do with Flume’s ability to give vocal samples an integral part in his musical motives. “Jewel” is a good example of how this is done; a drop where a side chained vocal almost cries for help, followed by a break where the same vocal is manipulated completely differently to produce an epic break. “Upgrade” produces a similar effect with a more sci-fi touch, as an arpeggiated lead engages with a hip-hop sounding “yeah” sample.

Equally epic is the remix of SOPHIE’s “Is It Cold In The Water?” with American producer EPROM. Reverberated synths with high vocals give this track an almost festival-like energy. Flume’s versatile style contributes to a coherent succession of tracks where those that are energetic like “High Beams” timely alternate with more soothing soundscapes such as “Dreamtime”.

If Flume’s sound has evolved over the years, some tracks on this mixtape give us hints at the sound on his eponymous debut, such as the slow paced and (almost) unpronounceable “╜φ°⌂▌╫§╜φ°⌂▌╫§╜φ°⌂▌╫§”. The latter doesn’t sound much like a filler track, but rather marks an emotional break from the more aggressive moments, overflowing on this mixtape. “Wormhole” is yet another example of Flume’s musical evolution where Sintra-like detuned saw waves swirl around a rhythmical 808 bass drum. One of the main strengths of the Hi This Is Flume tracklist is namely Streten’s ability to break new grounds in a controlled way, where musical lows and highs are evenly distributed.

It’s important to emphasize that there are no moments of hesitation on this mixtape. Streten knows where he’s coming from, what he’s doing, and where he’s going. He remains true to himself. This authentic display of emotions translates into an unwavering interest on the listener’s side. We’re left wondering how Flume came up with some sounds, and how his brain is able to process this amount of musical complexity.

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Worth mentioning, is the particular attention paid to the polishing of sound textures. Sound design as a whole, both through the careful engineering of sound waves, and the processing of effects is nothing short of exceptional on this record. Symbolizing this at best is probably the wide-sounding bass drum present on “MUD”. We’re used to bass drums being mono and the effect of such an experimental approach is at the very least surprising. In addition to Streten’s original approach to sounds and textures, this record benefits from Eric J. Dubowsky’s extraordinary mixing. Volume levels and audio frequencies on this mixtape are done properly, and allow a clear expression of Flume’s ideas. This is especially notable on the collaboration with American rapper JPEGMAFIA on “How To Build A Relationship” which demonstrates how Streten’s instrumentals are the perfect fit for rap vocals (in a similar way to “Enough” feat. Pusha T)

The emotional “71m3”, is another example on this mixtape where Flume makes perfect use of the stereo field to display his rich palette of sounds. Snares, cymbals, off-beat hi hats, and toms flow through the air in an almost orchestral symphony. A nostalgic voice sample is given just enough room to shine through. The only regret is the short duration of this emotional high. Likewise, the way the synthesizers are engineered on “Amber” is mesmerizing. Distortion as an effect is carefully applied to to awaken our senses. “Voices” is probably one of the stronger tracks on this mixtape. The Arca-reminiscent choir sample paired with a deep but mellow bass, and Kučka’s vocals produce a fascinating result. SOPHIE’s contribution in terms of sound design is noticeable both through frantically looped vocals, and highly distorted percussions. What at first seems to be a cacophony of sounds ends up blending perfectly well together, from which Flume’s now trademark woodwind instrument emerges (Shakuhachi?).

More than simply coming back with fresh music, Hi This Is Flume was also a way for Flume to put forth his holistic artistry. The visualizer accompanying this record, makes us follow Streten on a real musical journey. Somewhere in the Western Australian desert, the beat maker wears a silky and stylish bathrobe. He is wandering… in what almost seems a quest for inspiration. Midway through the video, he refuels a beautifully designed Nissan 300ZX before taking the road. Nature is an ongoing motif, and the occasional ethereal undertones of the music are well matched with the otherworldly Australian scenery. Choosing to collaborate with Jonathan Zawada  (who had previously worked on the Skin & Skin Companion 1& 2 covers) on the Hi This Is Flume vinyl cover, Flume has proven he takes his artistic image very seriously.

Jonathan Zawada’s beautifully designed Hi This Is Flume artwork.

Conclusion | Flume’s latest mixtape is a testament to the Aussie producer’s never-ending imagination. His unprecedented way to craft synthesizers, process drums, and to manipulate vocals proves he’s currently one of the leading faces in electronic music. With Hi This Is Flume, sound design and mixing are taken future bass to a whole new level. Proving how much he values his art, Streten also pursues his collaboration with Los Angeles-based artist Jonathan Zawada. The end result is a visualizer which is almost cinematic, and particularly well thought out artistically. Collaborations with JPEGMAFIA, Sophie, Kučka and Slowthai, to mention but a few, add more richness to an already free spirited sound.

Verdict | Hi This Is Flume is a daring electronic music mixtape, that deserves all of the recognition it received.

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