“Stagnation” isn’t a word in Flume‘s vocabulary. The prodigious talent had barely turned 21 when he admissibly defined and spoon-fed the contemporary future bass sound to the masses via his debut, self-titled LP. Sure enough, a star was born. He moved on to solidify his position as one of the most groundbreaking and forward-thinking artists of the current generation after collaborations with Nick Murphy (then known as Chet Faker) and Emoh Instead under their omnipresent What So Not alias.
By 2016, he’d become a fully independent entity, dedicating all his time to solo work and treading the line of pop and electronica with finesse in his Grammy award-winning Skin album. He’d set the bar improbably high for himself. But, being the true innovator he is, Flume has managed to finish another revolution around the experimental sun with Hi This Is Flume. Short, but indubitably sweet, the mixtape stands out as perhaps his most idiosyncratic work to date.
Hi This Is Flume is the product of an artist unburdening himself his self-imposed boundaries and surrendering himself to the abstract. It’s a complete change of pace from Skin, which, likely due to its numerous collaborations, strikes a tame, and even formulaic, chord at times despite its cohesive and invariably appealing nature. This body of work feels structure-less—take for example cuts like “Wormhole” and “Dreamtime”—but united all the same. Flume’s enduring love for squelchy, staggered arrangement is the bedrock of the record, with each of its 17 tracks ebbing towards the next, as organically as the tides turn over. We’d gotten a taste of this in the Skin Companion EPs, but the Aussie talent eclipses expectations in this latest undertaking.
Flume’s work alongside Vince Staples and other rappers appears to have influenced the direction of Hi This Is Flume, as well. The mixtape is packed with low-end stunners, like the euphorically unorthodox “Ecdysis” or the resplendent, twinkling “Jewel.” His choice of collaborators this time around also mirrors this irreverence towards convention: the eternally strange EPROM makes his way into the fold on two tracks, one of which was an ethereal rework of SOPHIE’s “Is It Cold In The Water?” Meanwhile, “How To Build A Relationship,” featuring superior lyricism by JPEGMAFIA, arrives as an unearthly melding of warped bass and avant-garde rap.
Awe-inspiring too is the amount of impact Flume manages to squeeze into such a short time span. Most of the productions in Hi This Is Flume are two minutes or less, but are so cleverly engineered, texturized, and intricately layered that they feel as expansive as a piece that clocks in at triple the length. “Voices,” another powerhouse effort crafted with SOPHIE and Skin collaborator KUČKA, is biting, with glitchy effects galore, contrasting with dreamy, fluid undertones to facilitate a cerebral and fully loaded listening expedition in all of 115 seconds. The hazy, lo-fi tune “Daze 22.00” captivates with Eastern influence and viscous synthesis that make for an off-kilter combination, without proving too jarring. And optimism lives inside a single song in “Spring”—a gracious way to end such a stunning compilation, with its subtle, saccharine buoyancy.
It would be remiss not to mention the stunning visualizer that accompanies Hi This Is Flume. Crafted by Jonathan Zawada, who’s also behind Skin’s designwork, the video is as quixotic and crafty as the music beneath it. While the record is plenty enticing on its own, Zawada’s interpretation of it in a visual medium really bolsters the entire listening experience, with its swirling psychedelia and internal/external journey premise.
Hi This Is Flume points to a new era for Flume that sees an already remarkable artist stepping away from convention, while remaining accessible. The advanced sound design and clear step outside his creative cavern showcase a matured talent who continues to carve new niches in the modern electronic sphere where no artist formerly thought to look. With news of even more music on the horizon, Flume is poised to continue throwing himself from experimental precipices for the better.
Photo credit: Tyrone Bradley