Australian electronica musician Chet Faker drops his debut album, Built On Glass, April 15, moving beyond the body of Internet-mixes-only electronic artists showcased on platforms such as Hype Machine and SoundCloud.
Faker’s first album is a successful venture, showcasing his style and leaving listeners wanting more.
Built On Glass begins understated and mellow, the tonal hits setting a soft jazz mood for the beginning of the album.
From the first strains of the vocals on “Release Your Problems,” the soulful, expressive mood of the album blooms, making the point from the very beginning that this isn’t your typical electronic album.
The overlapping, lightly handled strains of saxophone on “Talk is Cheap,” the single released off the album, speak to Faker’s at-times delicate handling of jazz melodies and tonal compositions.
The brilliantly composed track, oscillates between the sweet, soulful aspects of the backing saxes. This element brings to mind the delicate, wavering soul of James Blake, known for the emotional rises in the vocals and the hard-hitting beats in the background.
Rather than creating a wall of sound that constantly pushes against the listener, Faker is more invested in creating a backdrop of beats and subdued melodies through which the vocals strain for release, painting a sonic portrait of longing and love.
The majority of the production on the album is well-handled and tightly controlled, surprising listeners with melodic details that keep the movement of the album vibrant.
It becomes clear to the listener as the album progresses that Faker’s tracks aren’t simply for listening, but for swaying and dancing to.
“Melt,” featuring Kilo Kish, combines scatting elements with rich vocal ranges found within the music of many other electronic artists such as Nicolas Jaar and alt-J.
For those familiar with the work of these other musicians, Built On Glass might call into question whether Faker’s work is original enough to merit serious investment.
Though Faker does draw on many similar arrangements, tonal characteristics and jazz influences shared by other electronica artists, these similarities do not detract from how enjoyable the album is.
Additionally, there is enough unique production and vocal elements in the album to promise many more surprises from Chet Faker in future productions.
It is toward the middle of the album when some weaknesses begin to detract from the compositions.
Vocals begin to verge on the edges of the singer-songwriter genre, with the vocal sweeps beginning to hint at the mainstream trappings of adult contemporary. The excellent production, however, manages to save the more mediocre tracks, and Faker thankfully moves beyond the sentimental in the second half of the album.
Divided by a spoken section that announces “side two” of the album, distortion begins to seep into Faker’s tracks, and that’s when the listener knows that Faker isn’t quite done with the surprises on the album.
The vocals begin to overlap and delay, and the mellowness at the beginning of the album gives way to a more experimental, hard vibe on “side two.”
Production choices surprise listeners and continue to develop the album with twists and turns.
Once the bass drops on the track “1998,” Built On Glass turns into a full-blown dance party.
Faker still isn’t free from his weaker moments on the album, with the track “Cigarettes & Loneliness” getting bogged down in the repetition without having much to offer the listener.
The end of the album, however, finishes on just the right note to keep listeners hitting the play button over and over again.
The album ends without vocals, but with a more heavy-handed approach than the beginning of the album.
“Lesson In Patience” is contemplative and moody, getting into a heavier use of tones than the rest of the album. It pushes the limit of what Faker’s exploration of mood can do, and promises to be fruitful ground for exploring Faker’s capabilities as an electronica musician.
The last track on the album, “Dead Body,” goes back to Faker’s soul roots, with the track slowing down and drawing heavily from R&B.
The slow, swinging beats are just the kind of late-night rhythms one would find on an R&B and electronica fusion track, and stand out as just one end of the emotional spectrum that Faker explores on Built On Glass.
The bluesy electric guitar solo at the very end of the album is the perfect way to tie together an album that spent so much time deconstructing soul and jazz influences and exploring them within the context of electronic beats and melodies.
As the music winds down, so does the listener, and Built On Glass is a promising start to Chet Faker’s sure-to-be eclectic discography.
In the end, Built On Glass emerges as a great album not for perfect, polished production or impeccable vocals. Instead, it is a wonderful example of the range of production capabilities and emotional expression of an emerging electronica musician who can stand out from the pack of indistinguishable Internet-based artists coming out every day if he chooses to.