Australian electronic musician Flume first came onto the scene a decade ago with his self-titled debut album. He intrepidly followed it up four years later with the internationally adored, Skin. Yet, his long-awaited third album, Palaces, doesn’t live up to the expectations Flume set with his impressive previous releases.
It’s been six years since Skin, but, Flume hasn’t been hiding under a rock for this period. In fact, I’d say his experimental 2019 mixtape, Hi This Is Flume, is the best work of his career by a considerable distance and featured the ferocious ‘High Beams’ with Slowthai. Additionally, he’s also released a whole array of stand-alone tracks in that time, such as the delightful link-up with Toro Y Moi on ‘The Difference’.
Hi This Is Flume marked a step forward for Flume, which saw him break away from his former sound, which had become more commercialised in the wake of his success. Similarly to the mixtape, Palaces is adventurous, but, at points, the producer almost gets too expansive, and the release aimlessly drifts.
About half of Palaces is undistilled Flume and full of the kind of wonky tunes that have propelled him to his lofty position in the world of electronic music. However, it doesn’t feel like a coherent album, and most listeners will likely cherry-pick their favourite tracks onto playlists.
There are plentiful collaborations across the woozy album, beginning with the ear-melting opening track ‘Highest Building’, where Oklou’s vocals complement his off-centre beat thrillingly, making for an exciting start Palaces.
‘I Can’t Tell’ with English indie artist, Laurel, is the softer radio-friendly side to Flume and features a gorgeous melancholy chorus. However, the duality of the producer becomes stark on ‘Get U’, which starts with hard-hitting techno before gradually smoothing out over its four-minute running time.
These moments such as ‘Jasper’s Song’ when Flume is by himself are the record’s most dreamy and allow you, as a listener, to drift off into nature. Then the next minute, you’re loudly awakened from your daydream by heavy bass and sexual noises on ‘Only Fans’, which is even more difficult to abide by than ‘DHLC’.
Palaces is a confusing record, and although it’s supposed to be about Flume’s return to the picturesque rural retreat of New South Wales, it’s not a theme that he tightly sticks to. It’s towards the end of the record when the album truly begins to heat up, and his collaboration with Emma Louise on ‘Hollow’ is made to make people dance en-masse at festivals. Unfortunately, it is followed by the ultra skippable ‘Love Light’, but thankfully the haunting Caroline Polacheck featuring ‘Sirens’ drags Palaces safely back to shore.
Although there are several tracks on the album which aren’t totally memorable, the penultimate number, ‘Go,’ is a mind-spinning, dimension pushing effort which shows the full capabilities of Flume when he’s in the mood for trouble.
The album is then brought to a close with the beautiful title track, which features Damon Albarn, and is the highlight of Palaces. It’s here Flume shows he’s more than your standard producer and an adventurous genre-crossing artist who is far from a standard dance act, it’s just a shame these moments are rare.