It’s been four long years we’ve been awaiting the commercial follow-up to Flume’s self-titled debut album, and he spent them polishing the notes to perfectly wonky peaks and lows that are sure to make your “Skin” crawl.
Right up until Skin’s release on May 27th, the year was riddled with teases as to what was to come, beginning with the release of a four minute preview track of the album back in January. Since then, Flume released multiple singles from the album, including Never Be Like You, Smoke & Retribution, Say It, and Wall Fuck. The singles and social media hype were enough to make Skin an album I deemed worthy of buying on vinyl the day of its release, and over the past week I’ve had the pleasure of giving it multiple play-throughs and feel I’ve cultivated a solid opinion on each song and the album as a whole.
Flume comes off much more ambitious this time around. Though there is still an aim to appeal to a mainstream pop-electronic crowd, Skin consists of a great deal of unsteady, bass-rattling percussion paired with pitch-bending synthesizers that take a step back to the wonky/glitch-hop genre that saw its rise back in 2008. Paired with elements of dubstep and pop, the result is a unique, organic sound that challenges its audiences expectations.
Something I greatly admire in the world of EDM is a focus on sound production, in other words, making sure the speakers vibrate your car or room in just the right way, and Skin does not disappoint. The project shines in its moments of captivating off-tempo percussion that seems to hold a rhythm, and at the same time, doesn’t. It shines even brighter in delivering dynamic build-ups and entrancing melodies that are up to par with trance-masters like deadmau5 and Flying Lotus. As he did in his first studio album, Flume brings along a solid feature roster of various talented singers, rappers, and bands that deliver cunning personality and breathtaking vocal performances that match their instrumentals like pieces to a puzzle.
As every ambitious project does, Skin takes multiple swings at creating something its audience hasn’t heard before, and unfortunately a few of those swings result in a miss. Though it succeeds throughout most the project, there are moments where Flume’s highpassing pitch bends surpass the fine line between euphoric and irritating. Also, while it’s great for an instrumental to tailor to its vocalist, there are a few tracks in which unfulfilling vocal performances cause their instrumentals to get rather bland and boring before they even end.
So no, Skin is not perfect by any means, but its minimal flaws are not by any means a reason to skip it. Flume’s talents as a musician are abundantly clear in his ability to create a gorgeous, orchestral composition from otherwise distasteful sounds. In doing so, he’s made one of the most memorable and stand-out electronic albums of the year.
A great and climactic intro to the album. Flume delves into the organic sound he is aiming for right away, and the captivating vocal sample helps in cultivating a mesmerizing melody. The song comes to a steady pause near the middle and breaks off into a different sound altogether, made up of elevating synths that create a beautiful and dynamic build-up. The drop is nothing short of satisfying and sets the tone for the broken time signatures and percussion that are yet to come.
This song was the first single released from this album, and so its been in the playlists for a while. Though its framed around the pop-like skeleton, this is an instance in which Flume pulls it off incredibly well. Kai’s performance is strong and desperate, and it makes the instrumental surrounding the chorus that much more emotion-provoking.
Lose It (ft. Vic Mensa)
Though I’m a big fan of Vic Mensa and the Save Money collective, this song hit hard and died quick. The first psychotic synths of the song can’t help but catch my attention, but the chorus and its beat got boring before I could even finish my first listen. Vic definitely delivers on his verses, and his singing bridge isn’t too shabby either, but the over-modulated chorus “I might just lose it” becomes quickly repetitive.
Numb & Getting Colder (ft. KUČKA)
Flume jumps right back into the wonky with this one. He incorporates glitch-like elements that fall into a heart-stopping off-beat percussion. KUČKA’s presence resembles more of what I’d like to see when it comes to a feature on a Flume track, in that he paints what is already a gripping instrumental with a vocal performance that is more aesthetic than it is contextual.
Though I enjoyed it at first for its pop appeal, this was another track that lost its charm too soon. The melody is very much on track with the sound of the project, but tailors itself too dependently to Tove Lo. I love the piano progression, and seductive way the chorus starts up everytime. But by the time the last chorus kicks in, I’m left feeling underwhelmed, like I just witnessed a Tove Lo song sitting on the wrong album. Her prominence makes this track the most radio friendly, making it stick out like a sore thumb on the otherwise unique sounding LP.
Definitely the most interesting and intense song on this tracklist. Released as a single about a month ago, my first few listens didn’t bode well for this song at all. It was a bit… too ambitious. It wasn’t till I gave it a couple more chances and let it play all the way through that I truly appreciated this track for what it was. “Wall Fuck” basically translates to “Cluster Fuck”. Here, Flume simply goes all out in creating an absolute mess of mid-range synths and pitch bends that manage to hit a relative time signature whilst also being vividly arrhythmic and off putting. It works even though it shouldn’t, and the hypnotizing melody near the middle of the track is brought together with the intense beginning to form a truly genre-bending and climactic composition.
Solid track, but more of a prolonged interlude in that it doesn’t deliver the room-shattering percussion that’s abundant throughout the majority of the project. The piano progression is delicate, yet stays true to the unstable tempo and organic sound that Skin embraces.
This one dropped as a single around the same time as Never Be Like You, yet it remains one of my favorite Flume songs to date. The introduction synths are extremely attractive and hook me right away. Vince’s rapping is straight up hungry, and he delivers what I’d consider one of his best features yet (up there with Hive, can’t beat that one) over a beat painted with enticing pauses in percussion. KUČKA’s performance is just as lush and captivating as it was four tracks earlier. The pair’s equally powerful executions contrast each other to form one of the most memorable moments on the album.
While not as out of left field as Wall Fuck, here we get another example of Flume’s capabilities to play with percussion in bewitching ways. Though it is a bit forgettable in relevance to the rest of the project, it is a fantastic track none the less. Near the end of each listen though, I find myself contemplating why there wasn’t another rapper feature sitting here too, as the beat seemed on the same hip-hop tier as Lose It and Smoke & Retribution.
When Everything Was New
Another interlude track, I found myself digging this one a lot. The laughter and playful sounds of children reflects a similar vibe to the Odesza song Kusanagi. Complimenting a soothing organ performance, the song invokes a strong, nostalgic feeling of home that makes sense of the song’s title.
You Know (ft. Allan Kingdom and Raekwon)
I probably have the least to say about this song. Though I love Allan’s singing throughout, Raekwon’s heartfelt, tough guy rap verse simply doesn’t fit in here in the grand scheme of the organic sound this album perpetuates; it seems like it would have fit much more snuggly on the deluxe half of Flume’s debut.
Hands down, my favorite track of the sixteen. The first verse is followed by a dreamy synth progression and instrumental highlighting the musical and vocal talents of Little Dragon. The melody eventually fades out, and Flume delivers the by far most entrancing build up I’ve heard in months. The song definitely feels the most concise, well-polished and satisfying five and a half minutes this LP has to offer. If there’s a song that truly screams Flume, its this one.
Innocence (ft. AlunaGeorge)
As I pointed out in the track Numb & Getting Colder, Flume does a phenomenal job on this song as well in finding a mesmerizing, aesthetic voice that colors the instrumentation rather than steals the spotlight. Like Take a Chance, the track feels concise in that it takes multiple advantages of its ingredients and experiments with them in a variety of satisfactory ways in just a few short minutes.
Like Water (ft. MNDR)
Like Water is a great example of what I wish Say It would have aimed more to be. MNDR’s voice is blissful, and Flume does a fantastic job of layering vocal samples underneath her delivery. The organic sound and percussion is up to par with the rest of the album, but the song as a whole seemed a bit less memorable than those around it.
Another entrancing track in which Flume creates an enticing melody from a simply modulated mid-range synth. Unfortunately, this is one of the instances where his highpassing pitch bends become practically painful to listen to. The quick, repetitive bass near the middle and end, however, is just short of overwhelming and is as hypnotizing as it is climactic.
Tiny Cities (ft. Beck)
When I saw Beck’s name on the feature roster, I developed what turned out to be too high of expectations. Don’t get me wrong, Tiny Cities is melodic and catchy, but for a multi-Grammy award winning feature I was left feeling like they could have come up with something more conceptual. The drop near the middle is definitely loud and strong, but it feels out of place on this track, and is rather basic compared to the examples of talent Flume had demonstrated so far on this project. I wouldn’t have been satisfied with Free being the final song, but it at least would have given the LP as a whole a much more climactic ending.
But for real, let me know what you guys thought of the album! Do you agree? Disagree? This is just my opinion and I love some debate..
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