Sydney-native Harley Streton opened a cereal box and a CD-ROM fell out. It was a basic “Make Your Own Music” production program, ala Audacity. Intrigued, the 13-year-old Streton installed it onto his computer and played around with pre-loaded drum kits and synths, eventually adding his own plug-ins and sample packs. Streton became fascinated with synthetic instruments and graduated from his PC to vintage analogue equipment. To think that a cereal box would spawn the future of Australia’s electronic music scene…
Last year, Streton — under the moniker Flume — dethroned One Direction to top the Aussie iTunes charts. And now that his debut has finally surfaced in America, Flume has vaulted to No. 1 yet again. The warm reception is deserved, as Streton touts a distinct style of production that owes as much to J Dilla as it does The Avalanches.
Like Jay Dee, Streton chops up his percussion and splices the fragments back together. Although it sounds wonky, Streton never abandons a steady rhythm or backbeat (aka the part that makes people dance). Vocal samples — often distorted — occupy opens spaces in the drum pattern. Highlight “Holdin On” is Flume’s exemplary composition: pulsing synths, quivering tempos, and a repeated-till-it’s-stuck-in-your-head chorus (“Hip-shaking momma I love you”). By altering the vocals via pitch shifts, Streton crafts melodies out of samples — his strongest musical element. When a track lacks those melodies (“More Than You Thought”, “Space Cadet”), it becomes a hollow collection of choppy beats.
Streton rarely commits that fallacy, though the album does lose momentum during its latter half. This is partially because Flume is an excessive 15 tracks long. There’s just not enough variation between songs to warrant such a lengthy duration (blame similar instrumentation and arrangements). Streton definitely has the production chops to make a solid record. However, if he wants a great record, he needs to edit down that tracklist and sequence it for cohesion.
Or does he? Flume reached No. 1, after all.
Essential Tracks: “Holdin On”, “Ezra”