Addressing and Visualizing Flume as Music With Texture

Luiz Scheuer
Nov 16, 2019 · 7 min read
Credit: Reddit, u/jongeheer

I can’t remember how many times I’ve had to bend over backwards to answer “what type of music do you listen to?”, while trying not to sound pretentious or to describe it with meaningless adjectives.

When the music you listen to takes on many different palettes by distorting and stretching natural and artificial sounds, that question proves difficult to answer because, well, what type of music is it?

Many say Flume and producers alike belong to (mainly) future bass or vapor twitch. But if you are a careful listener, you’d be quick to notice they sound like neither— or like none of the 1500+ genres layed out at Every Noise at Once, for that matter. Rather, like everything in between.

For artists who express their scientific-like love to experiement with new sounds and have no particular identity to their discography, having a single genre attributed to their music doesn’t do justice to the array of textures they can have.

One day, while scrolling through the r/Flume subreddit, I read a comment on a post in response to what type of genre Flume fell into. It went something like “I don’t know, but a friend once told me it sounds like it has texture”.

That immediately stuck to my mind.

I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but it just felt right.

Therefore, with that redditor’s comment in mind, this is an attempt to bring more insights, depth and vocabulary to the way we describe songs — with many examples — coming from this realm of electronic music that is seemingly so hard to describe.

Why music with “texture”?

Breaking down songs into small pieces and focusing on each and every effect, melody or beat, one at a time brings out their uniqueness and significance to the rest of the song. In Flume’s remix of Turning, it could be the fireworks pops that you never thought were actual fireworks sounds when transitioning from one bar to another or the compilation of toms so characteristic of his “first era”.

By isolating different parts of songs, it is easier to attribute the value they deserve because the attention to detail is clearly noticeable. When put together, though, these individual events make songs much more enjoyable for extending the chain of musical ASMR [lol].

And you just know it is a good track when you sense that these effects aren’t just conspicuously thrown in there. They harmonize well.

I believe most artists from this electronic sphere whose content sound similar (in their own ways) have an underlying order to the chaos in their tracks. With both IDNTWNTU and Guilty, Marius takes on sequences of drums that initially seem to be in a different time signature, but end up matching the tempo.

Flume creates a similar outcome in Free and Wormhole. In the former, the series of bass and EDM-like pre-drop snare tricks us into thinking that a huge twist will follow, only to extend the same sounds into an overwhelming, endless build up. And in the latter, the “silly-sounding” drum pattern feels that it’ll constantly lead to another, more fast-paced dance music genre.

An emerging feature are the delayed drops at the snare preceded by a quick succession of acoustic toms or bass. Probably coined by Flume himself, a variation of it is very noticeable in Quiet Bison’s Hyacinth and in Petit Biscuit’s Jungle. These prove that sometimes less is more, while bringing a nice contrast to the usual abundance of “inherently unpleasant sounds” as another redditor, u/Error_id-10t would write.

In the case of Spring, Flume adds to the dimensionality with sounds that accelerate and decelerate. With the first bridge of Enough, you can almost see highly static rainy sounds. And quickly, quickly presents the glitch in the initial set of synths of Swingtheory so realisticly you wonder if they were added on purpose.

There are many other examples of the impact the different experiments and applications of reverbs and granular effects can have on how we perceive the mood of the song.

To answer the question, then: why “music with texture”?

Because it is unpredictable and contrasting. The sheer amount of different nuances make it look (yes, look) like there is no smooth plane when you imagine them, rather, rough patterns and artifacts all throughout.

So let’s see how it (sorta) looks like.

Visualizing texture

Flume @ Frankfurt 2019

For visual people, pictures, tangible references and bases for comparison are fundamental for the understanding of their underlying subjects.

I am a visual person. I translate the world into visual representaions. Making sense of things becomes easier when I draw the picture (pun intended) of the individual aspects and approach them from multiple angles.

The same goes for music.

I admit that when listening to a song for the first time, it is best to enjoy it on its own. With no external influence, whatever visualization your mind comes up with is an exact intepretatation of how you understand that song at that moment.

However, the cool thing about artists like Jonathan Zawada and the writers over at components.one is that their artwork and data visualizations, respectively, provide as much basis for us to define them as the songs referred to in this essay help us meta describe them. Which is pretty much none. That’s why, in my opinion, they go together so nicely — both the images and music with texture hold an identity while being random and complex, in a way.

Here are a few illustrations by Jonathan Zawada and Heather Mease (components.one):

Jonathan Zawada
Heather Mease
Jonathan Zawada
Heather Mease

These visuals are too abstract and chaotic to truly represent something.

I’d be breaking my own premisse if I demanded answers for what is to be gathered from them. Just like in Flume’s and Vera Blue’s Rushing Back music video, when inflated pool floats are pushed out of the modded Nissan 300ZX Z31, their artwork doesn’t need to have a clear underlying reason or logic.

If I had a gun to my head, though, I’d call it an intersection of natural and abstract.

Flume @ Frankfurt 2019

Finally, how accurate is it to say “music with texture”?

Although I’ve expanded on that term, we are still left with some limitations. The main proposal of this essay was to address the “issue” of there not being enough clear words to describe Taylor Moon, Lapalux, ZES, Flume or any artist with similar production style, but I have the feeling that I am leaving the reader with a sense of unfulfillment.

Perhaps that’s for the best.

Personally, the key to a good tune — and it’s what I feel brings me the most satisfaction in music — is the consistency of inconsistencies. When you hear something that you never thought you’d hear at that moment. When it feels broken and out of place, yet so fitting. It’s the ongoing tightly condensed hi-hat-souding clicks in Flume’s Quirk. It’s his unexpected break to silence during Heater’s chorus. Like I said, it’s the unpredictability and contrast of sounds.

Once in an interview, Harley said that he “wants to create sounds no-one has ever heard before”. And what better genre to attribute to these than no genre at all?

This leaves room for interpretation and open-mindedness towards new music. Being unpredictable means you can make anything and be free of prejudices. And leaving all the cheesy adjectives aside, that’s what we should strive for as music-loving human beings.


All the songs I listed above are in this Spotify playlist of mine: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2oaQ239iDnT8gsSDlqIE8L

For those wanting to delve into this sphere of “deconstructed” sounds, to put it in perspective, my musical influences began quite ironicly with Skrillex and other dubstep producers, back when my classmates felt disgusted by my taste in music. After that, dubstep became mainstream and they all started liking it. So there is a sound for everyone out there.

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