Back with an album to contort the very fabric of electronic dance music, Harley Edward Streten, the Aussie producer with a very elaborate, elite list of contacts and a database of eccentric synths, is changing the game. ‘Skin’, his second record, has been eagerly anticipated, but has seen some controversial reviews. I’ve witnessed a string of four- to five-star ratings, but I’ve also heard glimmers of disappointment. I really can’t think why, though; this follow-up is utterly triumphant.
It’s clear that enlisting a famous entourage of rappers was a good choice when Streten revamped his debut with a weighty deluxe version. ‘Skin’ is littered with bold offerings, too, but most notably enhanced by hip-hop names; Vince Staples pushes the envelope with his coarse tone across the delirious ‘Smoke & Retribution’, while Wu-Tang Clan veteran, Raekwon, bosses the mic with his rich vocals to complement Allan Kingdom on ‘You Know’. The best of all being ‘Lose It’, of course. Vic Mensa ploughs straight through the twisting synths and blazing bass drops to hammer a message of ridding yourself of your inhibitions. It’s absolutely ace.
KUČKA is an artist to feature not once but twice, including scattering her female harmonies over ‘Smoke & Retribution’ against Staples. She also goes solo on ‘Numb & Getting Colder’, a track with tinkling hums and progressive melodies. The scrunching instrumental effects evolve into messy synthesiser magnetism against soft drums. This is another case of Flume himself manipulating the boundaries in this modern era of sub-par trap and house, with corny and unimpressive EDM taking the lead. Wake up; this is even more deservedly Flume’s time, and these killer collaborations really reinforce that notion. There aren’t many aspects similar to his first album here, which evidences his learning and growth, but you do get a few token flashbacks in ‘3’, an instrumental smacking of one of his older songs, ‘Change’. Listen carefully.
In a melting pot of gloriously crafted, bass-fuelled tracks with pulsing synths and stabbing drum effects, often rivalling in-house rap DJs, there are some wistful pieces, too. ‘Take a Chance’ affords Little Dragon a say. The hooks are quaint and the lyrics really resonate, but the tune is a bit off-key and does sound slightly rushed in parts. ‘Innocence’ with AlunaGeorge is another slow jam, but ‘Tiny Cities’, with vocal support from Beck, is the most roaringly successful of the subtler beats. It also puts a stop to the 16 tracks in a most adequate way, placing the cherry on top of a bloody brilliant new record from the Sydney boy.
If you only download one track (although, I suggest you just get the lot), let it be: ‘Lose It (ft. Via Mensa)’