After the pandemic hit, Harley Streten left his adopted home, LA, for his real one, Australia. He moved to Byron Bay in Northern NSW and set up a new, quieter life for himself. “I’ve got property, I live on an acreage, I just live a simple life,” he tells Apple Music. “I grow my own vegetables. I have a snake that lives in my roof that sometimes crawls down to my front door.” It’s about as far removed as you can get from the bustle and drama of the city that placed him into “not in a particularly productive space or good space.” It’s here that he set up a new studio and got to work on the pieces that would become his third album, Palaces. The producer’s first two albums propelled him from Sydney’s nightclubs to festival stages around the world. His 2016 release, Skin, was built on the warped, unique production style he’d become known for and earned him his first Grammy. The next few years were packed with touring—until the pandemic hit. “This time has been really good for me, mentally—it’s just really given me a chance to slow down,” he says. “I got on this train, it started speeding up and getting faster and faster. When I was 19, I started touring and it just didn’t stop. Then COVID happened, and I had two years to just be a normal human. It’s been fantastic.” Palaces stretches in every direction. The sounds and style Streten is known for flings itself into new places, big and small, heavy and tender. There’s a healthy array of collaborators, including Caroline Polachek, who sings on the cinematic “Sirens.” “I’m really proud of that song,” Streten says. “Caroline was in lockdown at the time in London and she was hearing all the sirens outside. The song is like, ‘I wish I could start world peace. It would be really lovely to be able to just wave a wand and end all suffering.’” Streten’s trademark head rush of textures is still well-represented on the skittering “ESCAPE” (featuring longtime collaborator Kučka), “Hollow” (featuring Emma Louise), and “Say Nothing” (featuring MAY-A)—all proof of his continuing expertise when it comes to big, emotive pop. Meanwhile, Spanish DJ and producer Virgen Maria evokes playful sexuality with her vocal contributions on “Only Fans.” “It can go from zero to 100 and then back to zero,” he says of his music’s sudden hairpin turns and mood swings. But there are plenty of soft, ruminative moments here, too, such as ambient centerpiece “Jasper’s Song,” featuring pianist Jasper Harris. “That was originally a house track,” Streten reveals. “It was a full house banger. But I then felt like it took away from the beauty of it, so I stripped it all the way back and just had it as this ambient piano piece. It feels like a nice contrast in the record. There’s a lot of hard stuff, so it’s nice to have some really mellow, warm feelings.” And the closing track concludes the album in a gorgeous, atmospheric manner. It starts with field recordings from around Streten’s property, and slowly builds, rhythm and ambient chords billowing out behind Damon Albarn’s vocals. “Working with him, it was cool,” Streten says. “I’m a huge fan. I was nervous. I was fucking nervous.” A decade since his debut album, Streten has found his stride. Much like how his music darts from intense to meditative, hard-hitting to mellow, he’s realized his life, too, is all about equilibrium. “Now, I’ve got a really nice balance between LA and Australia, two ends of the spectrum,” he says. But he can’t overstate how important his choice was to move home, to take a break. In fact, the album name was inspired by the solace he felt after leaving LA. “I’d gone home to Australia, started life in the countryside, and felt like I’d found my palace. That’s where the record really came together. I was having a bit of trouble with music in the States. Going home—all that room, the simple life, it just gave me the space to create. And it just felt like a sanctuary.”


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