No genre succeeds in engaging a global exchange of ideas in the flowering way that electronic music is able to, and Sydney-based producer Harley Streten knows it. In the past year, his Flume project has toured Europe and the United States twice. His Tuesday stop at First Avenue, part of a third North American jog, comes less than a year after Flume’s self-titled debut. Although previous visits tended to navigate clubby terrain more lush in EDM offerings, there’s something Streten finds here in the States that he can’t in the till-sunrise clubs of Ibiza.
“What I do notice about the U.S. crowd, more so than anywhere else in the world, is that it’s always the hip-hop stuff that goes down really well,” Streten said. “I’ve always started out with more chill future beat-sy stuff. Then it goes into this hip-hop section, and I always notice when I’m playing the U.S. that you can feel the room move.”
The hip-hop kernel of Flume’s opulent palette can also be the 21-year-old musician’s most vexing talking point. Listening to the winding techniques across Flume’s debut release, many of the strove-for effects seem quintessentially hip-hop. The staccato synth progressions that Timbaland trademarked pop up regularly. Vocal samples always appear in pitch-wrecked fashion. And even though the textures can sometimes feel downright maximal, the bass always registers too low to be discussed in terms of EDM catharsis. Still, the hip-hop approximation is something Streten keeps at bay.
“I’ve never been a hip-hop head. It’s never been my thing,” Streten said, copping to some inspiration from the acts on L.A. producer/rapper Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label. “I’ve never really ‘got rap,’ as they say. But the production is something I’ve always been fascinated with.”
And to be fair, much of Flume’s technique is noticeably borrowed, or at least shared, among his contemporaries. Streten’s press biography even draws parallels to Hudson Mohawke, another twenty-something producer often discussed as a blurred semblance of prodigy and appropriator. But where someone like Hudson Mohawke strives for the immediacy of earworm production, Streten’s ability presents more of a rabbit hole.
“It suits my production style more than when, say, you’re writing big EDM bangers. A lot of the time the music production is not spent on the melodic side,” he said. “A lot of the time, it’s crafted to sonically sound huge on a sound system. I don’t mind that, but what I really get off on is the more creative side and experimenting with weird shit.”
A common talking point with Streten has also been his early exposure to music software around age 10 (alongside a very un-hip-hop and less-discussed knack for the saxophone). In the afterglow of his debut record’s confidence, it’s a bit comforting to hear that Streten spent his first decade toiling in a search for voice.
“Like three years ago, I realized that I’d always been looking for ‘the sound,’ ” he said. “Then I made [the “Sleepless” EP] over like a week, all with a similar vibe. That’s when I realized that this was the kind of sound I wanted to pursue.”
The woozy stomps of “Sleepless” resurface early on Flume’s full-length, and the whole thing can sound like an audible curriculum vitae by the end of a dubbier back half. With many of his peers like Clams Casino now spending more time working other artists’ soundboards, the same initially seemed possible for Streten’s trajectory. However, his Flume outlet is here to stay.
“With the first album, I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself,” Streten explained. “I want Flume to have some consistency where you can always hear it’s a Flume track. It’s also my fun project where I can do whatever I want. I can make club tracks. I can make tracks to have sex to. I can do whatever.”
When: 9 p.m. Tue.
Where: First Avenue.