Home Music Music Features

50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time – #9: Flume

KUČKA reflects on one of Australia and the world’s most prominent producers, the humble Harley Streten, aka Flume.

50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time - Flume

Matsu*; Megan Cullen*

In December of 2020, Rolling Stone Australia released a special edition issue which looks at the 50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time, paying tribute to the best and most impactful artists in Australian music history. While it would have been easy for the editors and writers of the publication to profess their love of the listed artists, the decision was instead made for those who found themselves inspired by these world-renowned names to share their own testimonials of why these artists deserve to make the list.

In celebration of the issue’s release in December, we’re counting down the full 50 artists and their accompanying testimonials in this ongoing online feature. If you want to get your hands on an physical copy of the magazine, be sure to subscribe now to experience the double-length edition featuring some of Australia’s best and brightest discussing the finest names in local music.

50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time – #9: Flume (by KUČKA)

I first started working with Harley over the internet. I was in a small town in New Zealand at the time and he was alternating between LA and Australia, trying to finish his second album, Skin.

I would get a few demos sent to me via email and get to work – I had free range to do whatever I felt the track needed. I would send my vocals back and receive some more demos and repeat. At the time, I didn’t really understand his process. I was wondering if anything would ever come of these things that I had written, but I was intrigued. I loved that I got to hear the worlds that he was creating; every track was so distinct and intricate. 

When he finally sent me the finished arrangements of the tracks, I was pretty shocked. The vocals that I had painstakingly recorded had been warped, pitched, and sometimes skewed beyond recognition. He had created completely new landscapes, using my vocals not just as a layer on top of his productions, but as an instrument integral to the DNA of the track.  

It wasn’t until a few months later that we would meet in person and get to work together in real life. Our first session was in Sydney at Eric Dubowsky’s spot, and it was there that I got to witness him producing in real time.

“He is a true experimenter.”

It’s easy to know when something has piqued Harley’s interest in the studio. He will find a single sound or technique that he knows has potential and play with it until it’s mutated into something truly exciting and unique.

I think this sense of play is what keeps him innovative record after record. He will always have a new plug-in that he’s obsessed with – something that mangles up a perfectly beautiful piano sample, a distortion that makes a sweet synth pad sound like it’s been recorded in the depths of an industrial estate, and he’s not afraid to use these sounds within the boundaries of a conventional pop arrangement. Nothing is too messy, the edges don’t need to be tidied up and if they were, the magic would be lost.

Because of this, his tracks end up having his fingerprints all over them, it’s obvious when a Flume track comes on the radio, which is not a small feat for an electronic musician. He is a true experimenter and it’s no wonder that his signature sound has inspired many producers to push the boundaries of their work further.