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Flume - Palaces Music Album Reviews

Flume - Palaces Music Album Reviews
Although not without its inspired moments, Harley Streten’s third LP confirms that he’s most creatively free outside the album format.

At his best, Flume is chaotic, weird, and kind of naughty. His most memorable tracks feel a bit wrong: They sway against the beat and break into harsh noise when another producer of his stature would probably prefer to insert a euphoric hook or ecstatic drop. His biggest look in the press to date—the first time his profile as a celebrity seemed to match the astronomical popularity of his music—sprung from Burning Man 2019, where he pretended to eat his then-girlfriend’s ass during a DJ set. It was the rare moment in which the Australian producer, born Harley Streten, seemed to genuinely be living the Diplo-meets-Arca fantasy that his best music conjures.

Flume albums show off this puckish streak in fits and starts. 2012’s Flume and 2016’s Skin nestled jagged instrumental gems like “Helix” and “Wall Fuck” amid more forgettable, down-the-line producer/vocalist collabs; 2019’s Hi This Is Flume mixtape suggested that Streten feels most at home when working with artists like Slowthai, JPEGMAFIA, and SOPHIE, unpredictable pop tricksters able to meet him on his level. That mixtape, and a handful of one-off collaborations with Toro Y Moi, London Grammar, Vera Blue, and Reo Cragun released around the same time, indicated that, like Charli XCX or Lil Wayne, Streten is most creatively free outside the album format.

Palaces, the first Flume “album” in six years, confirms this unreservedly. Although not without its inspired moments, Streten’s third record most often feels like Skin 1.5—a collection of ideas that might have been novel before Hi This Is Flume, but which now feel stale in comparison to the more interesting fare that’s come since. With little penchant for bedlam, it’s an album that lacks the exact thing that makes Flume’s music exciting.

At its worst, Palaces feels downright formulaic. Three songs—“Highest Building,” featuring French vocalist and producer Oklou; “Escape,” with mainstay collaborator Kučka; and “I Can’t Tell,” with British musician Laurel—all use the same clash of vaporous vocals and fragmented synths that Streten has been leveraging since the start of his career. It’s a predictable kind of chaos, and, as ever, lyrics feel largely unimportant: Lines like “Help me elevate, I just wanted to escape” and “Where’ve you been, where did you go? How can you sleep knowing you don’t know?” loosely evoke pathos without coalescing into anything genuinely resonant. Streten still largely treats his non-rap vocalists like samples, a trick that’s fun on the first go-around and frustrating on the fourth or fifth.

These songs, along with hypnotic, sample-heavy instrumentals like “DHLC” and “Love Light,” attempt to recreate the atmosphere of Skin, contrasting intense tension with moments of relief and weightlessness to mimic the build/drop dynamic of an EDM track without sounding quite like EDM. But Palaces is most successful when Streten removes himself from this zone and instead puts his own spin on entirely different styles. “Say Nothing,” featuring the husky-voiced 20-year-old Sydney musician MAY-A, is built around a metallic baile funk beat that adds a rhythmic consistency uncommon to a Flume track. Although MAY-A’s lyrics still feel relatively lightweight—“It hurts to love and leave, I don’t love you lеss/I saw it on your sleeves, you made such a mess” goes one particularly word salad-y couplet—she glides over the track unencumbered; without Streten chopping and reshaping her vocals, she feels more like a genuine collaborator.

On the whole, these kinds of songs—where Streten chooses to leave a featured artist’s presence intact, building tracks around them rather than splicing them into the fabric of the song itself—fare best. “Only Fans,” a squelching sci-fi banger featuring the underrated Madrid techno artist Virgen María, is the most impishly fun song here, one that recaptures the lawless feeling of Hi This Is Flume’s Slowthai collaboration “High Beams.” Over a skeletal beat, María raps breathily about sex work and puritanical gatekeepers with invigorating glee (“Fucking censorship, oh my god!/A break to the sex shop/Only Fans, that’s my job!”) while Flume’s laser-like synths fire underneath. María rarely gets to be so wordy on her own songs, which mostly take the form of raucous techno tracks; “Only Fans” gives her the space to weave her idiosyncratic outlook into Flume’s more mainstream world.

“Only Fans” is one of two moments on Palaces that portends a more limber, sophisticated future for Flume, in which Streten feels more confident to mold himself to his collaborators as opposed to the other way around. The other is the lucent, beautiful Caroline Polachek collaboration “Sirens.” Over anxious, scraping synths, Polachek sings in her highest register about the early days of the pandemic, when ambulance sirens were all you could hear on the street: “And if I could/With just a sigh/I’d stop the tide/Of siren cries.” As Polachek’s wishes come crashing down (“No wand of mine/No end in sight”) so do Streten’s synths, splintering and refracting in an instant. On “Sirens,” Streten and Polachek work in perfect harmony: It’s an abstracted portrait of crisis that’s vivid in its evocations. On an album that often feels like it’s going through the motions, it offers a tantalizing glimpse into what could have been.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Flume - Palaces Music Album Reviews Flume - Palaces Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, May 31, 2022 Rating: 5

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