Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Flume - Skin Companion II Review

Right now the Alternative R&B scene, more than any other, is oversaturated with content. Artists, new and old, are pouring out at the seams at a consistent basis, quality withstanding. As the genre continues to pigeonhold younger audiences, both those looking critically and towards the mainstream, countless artists are trying to latch on without gaining any actual ground against the competition. In essence, the entire genre has dissolved into a pool derived from its own melting pot. What once was a collection of burgeoning ideas, unifying R&B with trending genres like Trap, UK Bass, or Art Pop, that intrigued me with any announcement, has malformed into a plethora of tedious copycats intent on fitting in rather than sticking out. What's this have to do with Flume? Well, his popularity has been spurred solely thanks to Alternative R&B's implosion, of which he had a great deal of influence on. After welcoming listeners in with his new style of Wonky plus singers with 2012's Flume, the Australian producer pandered to Pop audiences with 2016's Skin, an LP that had flashes of brilliance in those hits but lacked definitive deep cut touches to please long-lasting fans. With his second collection of outtakes, Skin Companion II, Flume attempts to do just that.

A victim of his own creation, Flume's music, to me, defines Alternative R&B more than any other artist out there. It's not just sporting singers over sultry instrumentation anymore, the genre reflects the melting pot described before, welcoming in any genre that's willing to collaborate with it. From Hip-Hop to Downtempo, Wonky to Indie Pop, Flume subscribes to it all. On Skin Companion II, that much is painfully evident. With such a wide net to catch any intrigue potential depth retreats to nothingness. The four tracks here, by and large, work as collaborative ideas, executing what if's to a tee. Just like Skin. Even the one featureless cut, 'Depth Charge,' positions itself as a stereotypical return-to-form, testing the waters of what appeal an entirely synthetic track from Flume might have in this day and age. Long story short; none, as 'Depth Charge' is easily Skin Companion II's worst track. Virtually structureless with no clear payoff, the empty synth swipes and shoehorned vocal cuts offer no originality with zero sense of danceable enjoyment. Thankfully, like the other three tracks here, it's the only one of its kind.

The most memorable is the track that kicks Skin Companion II off. Like it or not, there's no questioning that declarative, as 'Enough,' which features a thunderous bass, noise elements, and Pusha T riddling off his high-energy drug talk, is aggressive in all facets to remain long-lasting. Interestingly enough, coupling the scorching noise and Industrial face of 'Enough' with the super-mechanical synth pumps that introduce 'Fantastic,' and it wouldn't be unusual for Flume to have given Death Grips a few listens recently. The influence doesn't really add or subtract to Skin Companion II's success, but it is a noteworthy spark that appeared. The rest of 'Fantastic,' accompanied by Dave Bayley of Glass Animals, is glitch-infused Art Pop that uses synths rather effectively, but doesn't reach the heights it sets out to achieve. Lastly, there's 'Weekend,' which, coming off the high of 'Enough,' sputters with an elongated build-up that's really not all that intriguing. However, the second half is more pleasing, with Moses Sumney subduedly singing over an orchestral arrangement that features a piano and strings. While 'Weekend's' first half isn't impressionable, after hearing the quaint Sumney refrain, it makes for a necessary transition between that and 'Enough.' All that being said, Skin Companion II doesn't offer much Skin hadn't already. Fans of specific genres will like their respective tracks, but enjoying the collection as a whole may prove difficult.

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