EP Review: Flume & Chet Faker - Lockjaw
Almost a year ago, I witnessed the artistic fruition of a young, Australian beatmaker named Flume, whose stupendous sonic imprint molded the form for artists like How to Dress Well, George Maple, Autre Ne Veut, and Freddie Gibbs on his debut self-titled album. Possibly the most introspective track on that record, in stark contrast to all the dim, strobe-lit, gratification found elsewhere, is the Chet Faker-featuring trip-hop ballad “Left Alone.” Flume's fellow countryman Chet Faker builds upon a chorus of haunting, tribal tones with his own pained and fragile vocal; it makes you swoon and jive and wince all to a provocative, foot-tapping rhythm.
Now, with the help of Future Classic Records, Flume and Chet Faker are up for round two with their collaborative EP Lockjaw currently available on iTunes and Spotify. The two electronic producers don’t veer far from their point of origin, only delving further into themes of longing and emotional turmoil present on “Left Alone.” Chet Faker's songwriting becomes more inclusive, more responsive to the convulsive, schizophrenic breakdowns Flume douses intermittently throughout this three-track masterpiece. The opening track, “Drop The Game,” distorts a crooning vocal sample as a hollow, cavernous melody, leaving you disoriented and sifting through a haze of murky synth; the vocal layer teased and refracted through space as a number of emphatic guises.
"What About Us" displays a similar sense of vocalized architecture that merges into the adjacent soundscape of distorted synth and fractal beats until they become virtually indistinguishable. The pedantic, U.K. garage dub variations feel as invigorated as any Disclosure dance jam, but midway through the song progression a sequence of loungey, piano major chords situate the melody in a kind of lethargic in-between. The last few moments subside with a husky, illuminating alto-sax solo.
The closing track, “This Song Is Not About A Girl,” attempts to complicate things. For the first time Chet Faker's vocal track is, primarily, blanketed in ambiguity, intermittently concealed and revealed again. The first word of the first verse comes out muffled and congealed, a two-toned, two-syllable noun that rhymes with “propane.” If this song isn't about a girl, maybe it alludes to a darker, more troublesome kind of relationship, a loathsome or endearing admonition of addiction to a paler, more treacherous kind of woman. The song eventually escapes the trance-like, metronomic dance beat; keys switch, rhythms diminish and shit gets cray. The first half of the song sounds like a personal favorite of mine, a Fred Falke remix of the Whitest Boy Alive’s “Golden Cage.” At the helms of one, calamitous climax of electronic mastery a la Flume, however, the song warps and heaves, reconvening as an inverted, two-step transformation, like the one part of James Blake’s “I Never Learnt To Share” that never fails to give me stank-face.
This collaborative EP by Chet Faker and Flume merges two of the most compelling forces in Australian dance music, making for a kind of music that breaches new territory. Their sound is constrained and fixated upon presets of soul and R&B, while relinquishing to the evocative forces dubstep and house. It’s a kind of multi-purpose music: made not just for dancing but more for experiencing a full range of human emotion.