“I like the way you work it.” Oddly enough, Blackstreet’s classic song about the phatness, was a catalyst for Chet Faker as we know him, or maybe even why we know him. In 2011, when the classy cover of “No Diggity” was boosted by the blog world up to #1 on the HypeMachine chart, the eminence of Chet Faker began to propagate. It was the first track that Melbourne musician Nick Murphy released to the world under the moniker Chet Faker, a homage to the intimate vocals of the tragic American jazz legend Chet Baker.
After signing to U.S. label, Downtown Records, in 2012, his debut EP, Thinking in Textures, garnished both Breakthrough Independent Artist and Best Independent Release awards from the Australian Independent Records Awards, in addition to a Best Independent Release award from the Rolling Stone Australia Awards. It is important to note that it took 8 years spent making music privately before he felt prepared to let the public in on his work. “When I started writing I was really interested in the idea of background music,” Murphy said in an interview with Beat.com, “I was really interested in music that would complement the thinking process of someone listening to it, rather than dominate it.” I can personally attest to how, even though he croons about seemingly personal subject matter throughout every song, the music fits snug into that place beneath my ribcage. The exemplary quality of home production, along with the combination of mellow electro-soul beats and Chet’s singular singing voice, left various camps within the music world aching for more.
He has since dropped a couple of remixes MS MR and The Temper Trap, and done some well-received collaborations with Ta-ku and Say Lou Lou. It was the work Faker did on the faster-paced Lockjaw EP, in tandem with fellow Aussie and Future Classic labelmate Flume, which allowed him to further expand his reach to the dancehall. I caught wind of a guy named Chet from fellow deep house enthusiasts at Middlesex Lounge.
We got the first taste of post-fame Faker in February when the single, “Talk is Cheap,” hit the web, accompanied by the freaky time-lapsed music video featuring the producer’s upper body thawing from ice, only to be swallowed whole by verdant foliage. In April, he released his first full length album, Built on Glass, which is currently sitting atop the Australian iTunes Album Chart and has maintained a green “repeat” symbol on my Spotify for the past month. Every song on the album was written, produced, engineered, and each part performed by Faker himself. Chew on that.
Raised by his mother’s Motown records and a father moved by minimalist house Ministry of Sound tunes, Chet developed a strong passion for music marked by affection and emotion. The “influences” listed on Chet Faker’s Facebook profile are pretty telling: Jamie Woon, The Avalanches, Jamie Lidell, Amon Tobin, Herbie Hancock, Burial, Abdullah Ibrahim, to name a few. This guy clearly doesn’t waste any time in doing his headphone homework and has boundless musical aspirations. When I think about the Faker tunes released thus far, my mind places them into that utopia-like “genre-bending” space. The product of this producer’s musical background and skill set is undoubtedly sincere and timely. Thank god for musicians whose demeanor and creations can give us hope that we are not living through a time marked by regurgitated bullshit and “music” pre-packaged to profit.
Built on Glass oozes back and forth between the highs of seduction to the trenches of betrayal. As the only words in the short and sweet, “No Advice – Airport Version,” explain, “No, I feel it in my bones/I feel it take me home/I need it more than you believe./ So, I eat into my hope/I need somewhere to cope/I heeded no advice.” The music throughout this record would make a Celexa-popping android feel something, for the rest of us it can truly shake you up something fierce.
During a recent chat with Emma Brown from Interview, Faker describes the connection between the record’s title and its often fragile disposition, “The metaphor of glass has a bunch of references, but one is a glass frame: taking something that might be mundane and normal but, by placing a glass frame in front of it, you direct attention to it. You can turn something into art just because of the way you tell people to look at it.” It is crystal clear that this musician has spent the past few years learning to cope with letting the public peep the product of both his heart and mind.
Like James Blake, Faker has a knack for soulful, classic rhythm and blues vocals and lyricism. As a longtime Blake fan, I’d have to go even further and say Faker’s brand of electronic-meets-analogue songwriting contains less digital vocal effects and more grit. I was impressed to find that this guy is seriously his own backup singer. As a thought is sung by Chet, another equally as passionate Chet enters and sparks a round. Remaining unsigned to a major label, he admits to not having the budget for backup singers yet. I say he needs to hit up some lawless part of Asia and get a couple of clones.
“Melt” is the only track featuring another vocalist, Brooklyn newcomer Kilo Kush, who provides a little confident feminine energy. Love when she says,“God damn boy, you’re so hot./It’s no excuse to make my pulse stop.” Chet’s vocal range and restraint are paramount in this song, as he switches from low and truncated to high moans. “Melt my happiness, some kind of fucked up mess/ Looking out for you is a kind of waiting game that leaves me running circles into my brain/ Help, my loneliness will take no part in this/ Oh, oh, overdose.” He relates his desire to something corrosive and dangerous.
“To Me” is Chet Faker’s attempt to channel Otis Redding or Van Morrison. Raw voice, raw sentiment. He’s been lied to, he’s tired and he knows it’s futile. He pleads for us to realize and rethink the dark state we find ourselves in, “Now listen,/ When you curl up in bed/And it’s you in you’re head, now, are you living?/ When you look straight ahead and you wish you were dead/Now, are you giving?
After the first six tunes, the listener comes across a track titled “/,” where Chet attempts to simulate the experience of flippin’ over the viynl with the familiar transient crackling sound and an old timey voice stating, “this was the other side of the record, now relax still more, drift a little deeper as you listen.” It is a marker separating two A sides.
“Blush” is the standout amongst standouts. ”How does one remove the thoughts that dig a deeper hole?,” the vocals in the beginning ask, sounding like the evil oil slick character from FernGully. The minimal bump and lull that follows reminds me so much of Nicolas Jaar’s “Time for Us.” I love the rising effect of the music entering from some far off place. “I kiss your blush, some kind of rush/ I want to hear my head overthrown/ I’ve got enough/ Its in the touch/ I kiss your knees and I try to be bold.” Naughty yet refined in its sexual tension. The twenty second bridge comprised of minimal sound, then silence, is haunting. It rounds out with some percussion and a hypnotic blend of synths filling and spilling.
“1998,” with its Disclosure-esque kick, high hat, and electro snare, is perfect for a mellow closer after the lights have been turned on in the venue during a deep house set. It was the chorus of this song that officially got me hooked, “We used to be friends/we used to be inner circle/I don’t understand/what I have become to you.” Everyone can relate to the falling out, this song is the soundtrack. The guitar progressions throughout the album may be the most poignant during this second half.
I hear Minus the Bear during the repeating dissonance of “Cigarettes & Loneliness,” and the blues of John Mayer during the closing minutes of the album’s finale,“Dead Body.” Faker has been formulating how to take the layers of production he was able to lay down in the studio and make it all come together in real time. His music seems to have as many nuances as he has hairs in his iconic lumberjack beard. Somewhere between Bonobo and Jaar, there lies Chet Faker.
Article originally published on DigBoston.com