Chet Faker – Thinking In Textures

One man, one pseudonym, a whole lotta hype. It’s not Chet Faker’s doing, but nonetheless, it his progression from unknown to public property can’t be ignored. Having carefully crafted a sound, an image, and a slim-but-excellent set of songs, the rising 23 year-old Melburnian hit number one on Hype Machine with a sultry cover of Blackstreet’s No Diggity.

One thing led to another, and within a year Faker (Nick Murphy to his mum) was playing his bedroom productions to rapturous receptions at SXSW. While obviously great news for the man himself, the sort of scrutiny that comes with such sudden success has broken many a promising career, and here raises some interesting questions. Is Mr Faker style or substance? And what is it about Terms And Conditions that raises it above the clutter of all the other sensitive early twentysomethings, pouring their heart out into their laptops? And, , how does this even happen?

Well, a few things are happening here: firstly, there’s the not-insignificant matter of talent; Faker’s got plenty of it. Secondly, there’s the sound, not just a distinctive sound, but the right sound, at the right time.

The most obvious comparison to draw (though by no means the only one) is to Oscar + Martin. Both take the slick commercial R’n’B of their youth and meld it with the indie pop of their adolescence. The resulting mix sounds like the velvety textures of Maxwell and his ilk, bleached to a neurotic white – the sensual tropes of R’n’B delivered with the characteristic reserve of an inner-city Melbourne beta male. Faker’s two great successes here are that he manages to make this sound so natural, and that the thing itself sounds so good; as the title suggests, texture is a big deal.

The atmosphere is intimate; hip hop rhythms are rendered on cushioned snares, with sub bass, beds of synth and Rhodes piano filling out the sound. It’s a remarkable feat for a novice producer; both sophisticated and restrained, there are enough unobtrusive hooks to keep things interesting without ever sounding cluttered.

Opening salvo I’m Into You and Terms And Conditions set the tone. On the former, Murphy’s lyric plays out like the slow, drunken courtship ritual it describes; from furtive to brazen, with bodies winding ever-closer. Terms and Conditions continues in this vein, exploring the recriminations and soured hopes, that almost inevitably follow.

For all the sonic opulence, though, Murphy’s voice is the element that holds the album together. Smoky and smooth, it sits front and centre, almost for the duration of Thinking In Textures. Curiously unexpressive, this apparent deficiency plays out as a strength, providing Murphy with the ideal means of exploring the themes of romantic uncertainty that thread the EP. If D’Angelo ran a high-class boudoir, you suspect that Chet Faker would feature prominently on the soundtrack.

It’s not all homage, of course; Faker peppers his slow jams with more contemporary flourishes as well. The instrumental Cigarettes and Chocolate is the most overt nod to the post-dubstep terrain that Murphy inhabits; all guitar loops and chopped-up vocal samples. For all the craft he shows elsewhere on Thinking in Textures, it’s Cigarettes and Chocolate that gives the notice of Murphy’s rare talent. The skill with which he arranges the minimal elements, keeping the listener’s ear engaged for it’s 5.25 duration, bodes very well for his already bright prospects.