Australia is a long way from electronic music’s principal hubs, but don’t tell Flume: When he was just 20 years old, the Sydney producer leveraged his easygoing surfer attitude into single-handedly changing the course of electronic music’s evolution. In the early 2010s, just as main-stage EDM was pushing tempos and decibels into the red, Flume—aka Harley Streten, born in 1991—went in the opposite direction, delving into hip-hop beats and airy synths. In the process, he helped pioneer a whole new dimension of chill. Streten got his start making music when he was 10 or 11, when his dad bought him a box of cereal. The free gift wasn’t a secret decoder ring, but a CD with rudimentary production software. In a way, it did crack a code: To see music’s inner workings laid bare came as a revelation to young Streten. A decade later, the deliriously laidback vibe of his debut single, “Sleepless,” got him signed to Australia’s Future Classic. The following year, his self-titled debut album established the outline of his nascent sound, pairing spring-loaded drum programming with dreamily chopped-up samples. The sedate vibe was the flip side of EDM’s peak-time energy, but his slippery synths and ribbon-like vocal edits showed kinship with dubstep; a sound many would soon call “future bass” was born.
Those head-nodding beats and hazy effects quickly became staples on chill playlists, but Flume was already lining up his next wave. With 2016’s Skin, he showed his growth with trickier beats and more innovative sound-sculpting, without forgetting about the importance of a perfect hook (exhibit A: “Never Be Like You,” with a swoon-worthy topline from the Toronto singer kai). His twisted trap drums and spacious atmospheres proved the perfect foil for vocalists like Vic Mensa, Tove Lo, and Little Dragon, leading to production work for Lorde and Vince Staples. On the 2019 mixtape Hi This Is Flume, he dusted off his most experimental beats yet while linking up with slowthai, SOPHIE, and JPEGMAFIA. Wherever electronic music is right now, you can be sure that whatever Flume is cooking up in his studio is two steps ahead. As he told Apple Music about his choice of collaborators, “I want to find people who are doing something different and open to working with different sounds and unconventional beats—just open-minded people who have something to say.”
BORNNovember 5, 1991