Flume draws inspiration from vast music spectrum
By Jeff Elbel August 28, 2013 3:16PM
Flume brings his signature style of electronic music to Metro on Sept. 4.
Flume, with Tokimonsta and Touch Sensitive, 9 p.m., Sept. 4, Metro, 3730 N. Clark. $19 (18+over). (773) 549-4140; metrochicago.com.
Updated: October 1, 2013 6:08AM
Rooted in experimental pop textures and hip-hop, the debut album by twenty-one year old beatmaker Harley Streten was released in his native Australia during November 2012. Going by the stage name Flume, Streten has made a rapid climb to international acclaim in the field of electronic music. “About his time last year, I had just finished the record,” he says. “It still is totally surreal jumping on stage at big festival shows, but you realize this is life, now.”
“I definitely don’t take it for granted,” says Streten of his enviable position. “One of the things I’m most happy about is that before all this happened, I worked some really crappy jobs coming straight out of school. Getting minimum wage working at news agencies or waiting tables was good for perspective.”
Following his first Chicago appearance at The Mid earlier this year, Streten is expanding to the larger Metro for his Sept. 3 performance. Flume’s new show allows Streten more control over the complete experience. His inventive sonics are integrated with a dazzling light show featuring the emblematic Infinity Prism from his videos. “I’ve got a lot of power now,” he says. “All of the sound effects manipulate the images onscreen. I’ve got drum pads set so when I hit them the LED screens, prism, lighting rigs and strobes all flash white. It’s really fun.”
Flume’s musical spectrum is unusually broad. Songs like “More Than You Thought” are built from rhythmic foundations, while others like “Sleepless” and “Insane” are lush and melodic. The peculiar groove of “Sintra” seems to defy both rhythm and melody. No matter what, Flume’s audience is moved to move. “People go nuts even for tracks I made with the intention to be more chilled,” says Streten.
His sound is also deliberately less rigid than much electronic music. “For me, imperfection is perfection,” says Streten. “I don’t work with a grid, usually. I’ll have the kick drums perfectly on time, but I’ll do everything else by ear. I like to close my eyes and give it that jilted feel, pushing it to the edge where it’s almost uncomfortable.”
Streten notes that the drawback to a busy touring schedule is having less time to create music. “I wrote less music in the last year than I have in any year previous, which is lame,” he says. “At the same time, I want to push the album hard. It’s a balance, but I’m trying to tip the scale the other way.”
New traveling habits and amenities may allow Streten to accomplish that goal. “When I first started touring, I’d end up partying a lot,” he says. “Now, I pick my battles. I think this will be a more relaxed, fun trip because I’ll actually be able to write. We’ve got a bus, which I’ve never had before. I’m taking some speakers from home and setting them up in the back. I’ll have a makeshift studio where I can get some music done on the road.”
The seeds for Flume’s work ethic arose from an unlikely source. Streten’s first audio program came from a Nutri-Grain cereal promotion. Upon hearing about the cheap toys usually found as American cereal prizes, Streten laughs. “Usually, we get fake tattoos and pencil toppers as well in Australia. I think I picked the right week to go to the supermarket.”
Jeff Elbel is a local free-lance writer. Email: email@example.com