Inspired by a relocation to his native Australia, musician, DJ, and record producer Flume kicks off a new era with his highly anticipated third album, 'Palaces'. Following 2016’s 'Skin' and 2019 mixtape 'Hi This Is Flume', 'Palaces' showcases a disenfranchisement by the bustling lifestyle of Los Angeles, finding inspiration and peace in the idyllic nature of his native country. Merging a production of poppy, hyperpop-inspired synths, vivid and off-kilter discordant beats, and recorded sounds of local flora and fauna, Flume’s latest production eschews a hypnotic, electronic sound.
The 13-track LP highlights Flume’s ability to push the boundaries of a genre he helped to define, all while never losing the gentle house tones and sense of introspection intrinsic to his sound. On 'Palaces', Flume expertly blurs the line between left-field avant-garde production and accessible pop music, capitalising off fo the burgeoning genre of hyper pop, all while remaining uncompromising of his vision and artistry evident since Flume’s beginnings. Deviating from being entirely avant-pop, 'Palaces' grips on to Flume’s steadfast electronic sound, creating a record that feels innovative, yet entirely his.
The project is perhaps lost during the tracks geared towards more mainstream, radio-friendly hits. Songs like 'Say Nothing' and 'Hollow' are lost amongst the awe-inspiring reworking of 'Get U', 'Only Fan', and 'Go', having been inspired by the futuristic sound of greats like SOPHIE. Stacked with powerhouse features, the collaborative tracks stand out. Cult pop-superstar Caroline Polachek features on the album’s single 'Sirens', and French riser Oklou is a triumph on the album standout 'Highest Building', both providing an orchestral, ethereal vocal style against a head rush of cacophonous synths – a beautiful and talented vocal display cutting through a growing backing drum beat, both expertly produced by pop-visionary Danny L Harle.
Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz steps up on the eponymous album closer 'Palaces', a meditative piece of work tapping into the ecological origins of the album by utilising bird sounds recorded near Flume’s home in Australia, while the vocals of long-time collaborator KUČKA, who appeared in both 'Skin' and 'Hi This is Flume', dances over a fidgety, distorted beat on “Escape.” Beyond collaborators, solo tracks like 'Get U' and 'Go' showcase a techno-charged expertise from Flume, offering an introspective take on a glitched-out distorted melody, but never changing his constant replay value.
'Palaces' spans genres and takes inspiration from the late icon SOPHIE, with whom Flume collaborated with on 'Hi This is Flume'. The late visionary showed Flume how to produce a future-focused, unique pop melody from seemingly discordant beats, a sound inherent to the PC Music and hyper pop genre. In an interview with NME, Flume spoke about SOPHIE’s influence on him, saying “SOPHIE would rock up with this tiny little box, the monomachine by Elektron, and just start making the most insane sounds. Time and again, I’d be like ‘How?!’ and she’d reply saying ‘Oh, it’s simple!’ and pull up a synth on my computer and recreate the sound on software.” These sounds would become incredibly apparent and important on Palaces, resulting in a creation full of futuristic ear worms that capture the imagination at the heart of Flume’s work.
“This song is about feelings of post relationship clarity,” Flume states. “We wrote the song midway through 2020 while the pandemic was still pretty new. I was really excited about the initial idea but it was only once I got back to Australia in early 2021 and linked up in the studio with May-A that the song really came to life.” Flume’s inspiration from a wide range of contemporaries and role-models is evident across 'Palaces', with the result being an innovative, introspective look at what electronica can sound like. While some of the more Top 40-driven tracks risk getting lost in the mammoth-like production value of his imaginative, left-field hyper pop tracks, the sum of the album is beautiful, intended to be enjoyed by both faithful Flume stans and new listeners drawn to the beauty of a cacophonous, glitched-out style popularised by super-producers like SOPHIE, Danny Harle, and more.
Words: Ruby Carter
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