Words: Alex Hindley
Flume's first self titled album has become a such staple of Australian electronic music, at this point it's basically obligatory listening. He captured the attention of so many nationally and across the world with his refreshingly produced dance rhythms. Now three years later, the world finds itself on the cusp of his new album Skin which has begun its promotions with the release of two singles. Never Be Like You feat. Kai brought the somewhat elusive artist back into the forefront of Australian music and as if riding the waves of anticipation comes a new track, Smoke And Retribution feat. Vince Staples & Kučka.
Beginning with a discordant, chip tune synth melody that lays the tone for the entire song. A departure somewhat from Flume's signature pumping side-chained pad's and softer synthesisers.
The song abruptly transitions into a solid bouncing beat that slips around with the glitchy melody and buzzing stab hits, accompanied by a distorted flow from one of the best rappers currently in circuit, California's Vince Staples.
An aggressive and pumping rhythm, peppered with hi hats and a beefy drum kit that alternates between harsh cut samples and wider, noisy hits.
The song transitions out of it's heavy tones into what feels like Flume's signature style. Evolving and soothing chords make way for beauty, giving the perfect foundation for the second feature artist. Perth pop queen Kučka makes an incredibly wonderful and quality appearance, her whispered and cutesy vocals transport the song to a completely different place yet weighted by themes of resistance and uncertainty. Lacking a drum rhythm in exchange for full focus on the wispy and beautiful singing that comes almost out of nowhere, it's hard not to feel pride in a local artist making such big waves for herself and others.
Whilst Smoke And Retribution mixes both these tones and styles together masterfully, it does feel like two separate projects forced together. Perhaps a reflection on the themes and subject matter of the song but its hard not to notice the abrupt switches in song structure and style between the two feature artists performances.
As the glitch based, harder beat returns along with Vince's strong lyricism. It interestingly exchanges some of the original, harder synth stabs to longer and less intense chords that rise in waves of crescendo. An idea that Flume seems to relish in as the softer Kučka portion returns but this time borrowing the bouncing drum kit. It seems the abruptness of the song is by emotional choice, as the two worlds borrow elements of one another but only subtly.
The same chip tune melody that initiated the track acts as a bridge into the close of the song, final words from Vince to the now familiar beat delay off as a more intense version of the softer melodies that supported Kučka carry the song to a finish.
The success of Flume's first album makes for some incredibly large self made shoes to fill but if this single is anything to go by Skin may very well be one of the best electronic albums of the year.