Chet Faker – Built On Glass (album) (Future Classic / Opulent)

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Without a shadow of a doubt, Chet Faker’s upcoming debut album, Built On Glass, is one those records that’ll be way up there when it comes to listing our favourites for 2014.

Hailing from the tight-knit disco and house music scene of Melbourne, Australia Chet Faker creates a enthralling and unique brand of electronica-soul.

Faker first came to our attention via his appearance on Flume track Left Alone (read our review). Back in March 2013, we reviewed the Live Sessions EP, which included unique and soulful reworkings of Blackstreet‘s No Diggity and Burial‘s Archangel as well as the original composition, Love and Feeling. Though a live recording, truth be told, the EP sounded better than a lot of artist’s studio efforts.

The aforementioned EP followed Faker’s brilliant, 2012, gold-selling, debut EP, Thinking in Textures (from which the aforementioned Love and Feeling was lifted from), which won Best Independent Single/EP in the 2012 Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR) Awards. (Faker, himself, also won Breakthrough Independent Artist.)

Chet Faker was also nominated for two Rolling Stone Awards for Best New Talent and Best Independent Release, winning Best Independent Release. His collaboration – Drop the Game and the Lockjaw EP – with fellow Aussie electronic artist Flume, was certified Gold within weeks of its release. This is all in addition to playing sell-out shows across Australia, the US, UK and Europe, inking deals with influential labels Downtown Records (US), PIAS and Chess Club (UK), and a series of additional collaborations with Say Lou Lou, and Kilo Kish. Phew.

Barely pausing for a breath, Chet Faker is about to release his highly anticipated debut full length, Built on Glass. The self-produced, 12-song album was recorded by Chet himself over a two-year period, melding his effortless R&B vocals and pop melodies with a youth spent making house, disco and intricate beats.

Says Chet of the record: “I recorded the album at my home studio. I rent a small converted cooling room in the heritage listed North Melbourne meat market. Honesty is a big part of the record. I recorded with easily affordable equipment, the budget was tiny. It’s the first time I’ve ever worked on a full-length and I felt like hi-fidelity wasn’t something to strive for working in a room on my own. Lyrically, I wanted to explore how my life directly affected my music – that’s the glass, I guess.”

Built On Glass plays out as if split into two halves – this given credence by the fact track #7, a 20-second interlude titled only with a slash (/) – prompting listeners to flip sides.

“Side One” is the more chill side of the two and focuses of the the craftmanship; the soulful R&B songs are stripped back to the essentials – usually just beats, bass, organs, and vocals – but then tastefully produced with extra instrumentation to colour. “Side Two”, on the other hand, is more about the beats and the energy while still retaining the R&B and soul elements. More experimental in sound and arrangement, the second batch of tracks is also where electronica steps to the front, even introducing house music elements to boot.

Opening track, Release Your Problem is an elegant but sparsely produced number built around a funky bass line, glistening Rhodes, and Faker’s soulful vocal. The verses have the kind of soulful ambience of James Blake while the song’s hook immediately recalls Ginuwine classic, Pony. Overall, Release Your Problem is a stunning opener and is likely to appeal to fans of the aforementioned James Blake as much as it is D’Angelo.

Talk Is Cheap is an oh-so-smooth tune that begins saxophone before a fat beat and funky Rhodes lay down the foundation for Faker’s brilliantly rhythmic R&B vocals. Hooks a plenty, Talk Is Cheap has “hit” written all over.

Clocking in at only 1:46, No Advice is a bare-bones tune – almost a capella in nature – with just Faker’s ghostly vocal set above a bed of atmosphere. On the contrary, Melt (feat. Kilo Kash) is the first track that really gets the body moving with its fat beats and FM bass line paired with more of Faker’s R&B / pop phrasing and enunciation. Meanwhile Kilo Kash’s vocals add a cool delicacy to the tune.

Guitar makes its first appearance on Gold. A brilliant tune with a dirty bass line, muted guitar, and gritty organ set off against the song’s smooth verses, Gold – oddly enough – calls to mind Dave Matthews on his 2003 solo album, Some Devil (think Gravedigger). Then there’s To Me – a perfect, heartfelt, and soulful pop tune and one of the album’s highlight tracks.

“Side Two” of the record begins with the journeying, Blush. Immediately changing the feel of the record with its pitch-shifted and phaser-effected vocals, the song goes through several stanzas including a steady kick-pulse paired with hypnotic synths, which are then contrasted by the bare bones sections of just vocals and Rhodes.

Album highlight, 1998, turns things up another notch. UK Garage-flavoured beats, synth stabs, and a chorus to die for, 1998 is the type of tune Julio Bashmore would be proud to call his own.

The seven-minute Cigarettes & Loneliness is characterized by its 808 drum patterns and clean guitar melodies, culminating in a style not unlike that of Radiohead circa The King of Limbs. The song then moves into earnest Paul Simon-esque, singer/songwriter territory, unlike anything else on the record. Great stuff.

Soulful album closer Dead Boy may technically be more suited to “side one” of the album but is understandably the perfect closing piece. Achingly gorgeous, Dead Boy is a timeless soul number that recalls the kind of blue-eyed soul of Jeff Buckley (think Lover You Should’ve Come Other or Everybody Here Wants You) complete with some lovely Telecaster tones to boot.

With a diverse set of influences, served up in a most delicious way, Built On Glass is a solid collection of songs and a most satisfying record from start to finish.

Built on Glass will be released 14th April 2014 via Future Classic and Opulent.

Watch the video for Talk Is Cheap below:

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