Flume – ‘Palaces’ review: Australian producer’s Damon Albarn-featuring ode to nature

On this third album, the musician couples his floor-shaking, hit-making style with quieter moments of introspection, reaching new heights in the process

Flume has perfected his own brand of wonky electronic music. For the past decade the artist – real name Harley Streten – has crafted fluorescent tunes that have won him a Grammy (second album ‘Skin’ took the trophy for Best Dance/Electronic Album at the 2017 ceremony) and helped him sell out venues across the globe. He’s known for left-field sounds that ping with electricity; tracks that are meant to be heard on big, bassy festival sound systems in the early hours of the morning.

READ MORE:Five things we learned from our In Conversation video chat with Flume

Third record ‘Palaces’ sees this sound infused with something more, though. Inspired by the natural world, the project was first started in LA, but finished in his native Australia, where he decamped as the COVID-19 pandemic began. “I just need the space and the peace and quiet,” he told NME of the move in a recent interview for our In Conversation video series, explaining that the chilled lifestyle, where he could live among local wildlife, ended up being extremely conducive to his process. The move shook him out of a creative rut: “Coming here and doing fuck all made it possible to unblock whatever was going on”.

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The results of this shift see Streten’s distinctive sonics imbued with an ethereal twist. On the cinematic ‘Jasper’s Song’, trilling piano arpeggios are pulled and pushed through woozy processors – it’s the equivalent of a stoned geezer boshing out a Ludovico Einaudi piece on a short-circuiting keyboard. Elsewhere, the euphoric ‘Go’ begins with ASMR-friendly sounds of running water, with bouncy hooks and lush production later erupting into a jubilant floor-filler. The title track, meanwhile, sounds like the sun rising after a wild night, with bird song (and his pal Damon Albarn’s distinctive vocals) guiding you home as the darkness ebbs away.

That’s not to say Streten forgoes the bangers altogether. ‘Only Fans’, a collaboration with Spanish artist Virgen María, fuses carnal vocals with industrial beats, and there are moments of filthy bass-heavy electronica (‘Get U’) and chaotic hyper-pop (‘Highest Building’, ‘Escape’) elsewhere. Fans of ‘Skin’’s dance-pop hits will be satiated, too, with lead single ‘Say Nothing’ featuring Australian artist May-A, the closest rival to that album’s standout, Tove Lo-featuring single ‘Say It’.

This change in pace makes for a welcome modification to the Flume sound, which is elevated by his rich, newfound sonics. Yes, Streten can still soundtrack your night out, but on ‘Palaces’ he’ll also gently bring you back down to Earth when morning comes.

Details

Release date: May 20

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Record label:Transgressive Records

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