Following in the footsteps of his recent partner-in-crime Flume, bearded hipster Chet Faker, aka Melbourne singer-producer Nicholas Murphy, is the latest Australian dance act to make waves in the U.S., having soundtracked a 2013 Super Bowl commercial with his intriguing cover of Blackstreet’s New Jack Swing classic, “No Diggity.”
Inspired by both his mother’s Motown and father’s Ibiza chill out record collection, his debut album, Built On Glass, pursues a similarly atmospheric three-in-the-morning electro-soul sound on twelve striking original compositions which shows that the 24-year-old has his outgrown his bedroom pop beginnings.
“Talk Is Cheap” combines the staccato percussion and ghostly vocal loops of Timbaland at the peak of his production powers with a gorgeously smooth sax line to produce a woozier take on Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River.” “Melt” is a wondrous head-bobbing collaboration with alt-rapper Kilo Kish which fuses stoner jazz-hop beats and rubbery basslines with an enchanting, if slightly discordant, flute solo. And “1998,” a beachside-friendly classic house throwback which perhaps should have been titled a decade earlier, fits in neatly with the current old-school revival without sacrificing Faker’s yearning qualities.
Even the interludes, so often an unwelcome distraction, display an impressive sense of invention, whether it’s the hypnotic spoken word piece, “/,” which instructs you to “relax still more and drift a little deeper as you listen” to the album’s immersive second half, or the Fleet Foxes-esque multi-layered harmonies and retro synths that somehow capture the surroundings of an empty departure lounge on “No Advice (Airport Version).”
An eight-minute venture into The Postal Service-style indie-pop on “Cigarettes and Loneliness” appears to have wandered from an entirely different record. Elsewhere, the equally meandering gospel-folk of “Lesson In Patience,” whose trumpet solo is the only time the album evokes the legendary jazz musician after whom Chet Faker named himself, is certainly aptly-titled.
But despite a shaky start – opener “Release Your Pressures” resembles one of Jamie Cullum’s attempts to prove his urban credentials – and a self-indulgent ending, Built On Glass’ lush blend of the analogue and the digital consistently intrigues and engages while still impressively retaining Chet Faker’s trademark after-hours vibes.