Bursting through the doors of the Toff at 8:30pm, they slam loudly behind me, echoing the nerdiness of my own super punctuality to a crowd of – nobody. Hiding behind an oversized beer until the red curtains peeled opened, the room began to fill and newcomers I’lls’
took up their instruments.
I’lls’ (pronounced ‘Isles’) released their stunning 7-track EP Thread
in 2011, a surreal delight of ethereal soundscapes grounded with solid hooks that draws you back for another listen. Wearing a small plain white t-shirt, the livery of the electro bedroom warrior, frontman Simon Lam was anchored to his spot at centre stage. Tapping beats on his sampler pad, he sings softly into two microphones that layers his voice with a faint echo. The set flows into a finale with ‘When I Know’, in which Simon leaves a loop running and hops on drums, adding live force to an unexpectedly epic crescendo from the seemingly tranquil band.
Finally the mysterious Chet Faker
takes the stage, the man we didn’t know a month ago but whose hairy face has been cluttering the indie blogosphere since. Interested to see how this producer would translate his homemade sound to live performance, he had a guitarist, bassist, and a drummer in tow, while Chet sat behind a keyboard, a laptop, and sampler.
Opening with ‘Chocolate and Cigarettes’, he stays true to the EP Thinking in Textures
, with sounds of far-off children laughing bouncing through the speakers. Looping his pre-recorded vocal samples, his phantom voice captivates the room without him opening his mouth to sing. When the song finishes he assures us that the track has no deep meaning, he just likes cigarettes… and chocolate. He follows with ‘Terms and Conditions’ and ‘I’m Into You’, two more gems off Thinking in Textures
. His voice carries the effortless magic of old style soul, although he doesn’t belt or show off vocal frills, it’s deeply bare and unashamedly sensual. Introducing the next song ‘Jeans and Wallet’ (not on the EP), Chet warns “I don’t even like this song”. Although the song may not have much of a hook, it has a nice dreamy groove; but also shows just how fresh Chet Faker’s project actually is and that he is still struggling to fill an hour.
Whether it’s the intimate nature of the Toff, or the final set of his three-night run, he is refreshingly candid about the simple meanings behind each song. ‘Everything I Wanted’ is about first world problems; ‘Love and Feeling’ is about sex; while ‘Solo Sunrise’ is about “trying to get home before the sun comes up. But the sun beats you. And you just feel broken. But you feel good because you stayed out all night”.
Without playing Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’
(the song that launched him to fame), the band thanks the crowd and leaves the stage. But no one is fooled. A minute later Chet walks sheepishly back on stage, acknowledging that encores are a bit silly when “everyone knows you’re coming back”. Alone, he sits down at the keyboard and announces, “this is a cover” – and everyone thinks smugly, “well, I know what this is”. But it’s not. Unable to recognise the song I still became lost in the slow, hypnotising groove. His voice washing over the audience in commanding, repetitive waves; punctuated by drifts of silence. Mid-swoon, the crowd cheers to the opening bars of ‘No Diggity’. Surprisingly, the most anticipated tune of the night turned out a little average compared to the rest of the set. Perhaps it lacked the soul of the EP, or maybe the funky addition of live drums detracted from the original surreal quality.
Either way, Chet Faker and his band are still finding their feet on a live stage, and for a group that has barely gigged together before, they’re off to a promising start. No doubt after that performance the hipsters went home, stood in front of the mirror, and wondered if they’ll be able to grow a beard like that before it’s out of fashion.
Photos were taken at Chet Faker's Thursday 19 April show, while the review is for his Sunday 22 April show.
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