Chet Faker took everyone by surprise. Including Nick Murphy.
“It was always meant to be a temporary project,” says Murphy of his musical moniker. “But so much has changed. And I moved through some things. To the point where I finally realised, Holy shit this isn’t temporary. This is not the be all and end all of what I want to do.”
At 28 Murphy has done a lot. Emerging in 2012 with the Thinking in Textures EP, Murphy took Chet Faker international with the release of his self-produced 2014 debut LP, Built on Glass.
As Chet Faker, Murphy has performed sold out shows on five continents, and appeared at the likes of Coachella, Lollapalooza, Glastonbury, and Primavera. He performed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Boiler Room, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and Built on Glass won Murphy five ARIAs, including Best Male Artist and Producer of the Year. His tracks have been streamed in the tens of millions.
So why put that recognition in jeopardy?
“Chet Faker was me trying to prove something to myself,” says Murphy. “But my tastes are pretty dynamic and I realised I’ve spent time resisting that. Now I want put everything in. It’s not conceptual anymore. It’s just me, and it made sense to show that in a name. It feels like a rediscovery.”
That feeling brings Murphy full-circle. Thinking in Textures came easily – something he conjured between study and work commitments. But making Built on Glass was difficult. “Everything had to be finished to perfection,” he says. “I recorded it alone. I was so meticulous. I think now I was punishing myself just to see if I could do it.”
Its success, creatively and commercially, proved he could. In early 2015 Murphy moved to New York and began stockpiling new ideas. By early 2016 he’d sketched out the beginnings of a second Chet Faker album, and flew to Rick Rubin’s Shangri La studios in Malibu to begin work. Then, a hitch.
“I remember having this ‘ah-ha’ moment,” says Murphy. “I was in Shangri La. I could do whatever I wanted. And I thought, ‘OK. Well, I’ve ‘made it.’ But how do I feel about the music? I didn’t like it. I wasn’t getting anything from it. And I think that’s where all this stemmed from.”
Murphy returned to New York emboldened. He sought new dialogues with friends, most notably guitarist and producer, Dave Harrington (Darkside). The explorations he’d left behind when establishing Chet Faker returned as fresh creative avenues. By the time he released the brooding ‘Fear Less’, under his own name, followed by ‘Stop Me’ in mid-2016, he knew everything was different.
“This huge wave came out,” says Murphy. “And I broadened the framework. Instead of having to make finished tracks, I could just explore. That felt like the missing link between where I was and where I’m going now.”
The Missing Link EP is a snapshot of that wave in motion. Opener ‘Your Time’, bears traces of Murphy’s previous incarnation, but the central motif of ‘Bye’ is voice-less distortion. ‘I Am Ready’ embraces opposing movements; ‘Forget About Me’ is a grand, escalating “purge” unlike anything Murphy’s done. Closer, ‘Weak Education’ is a personal callback – a reminder to have fun. It’s the sound of Murphy exhaling.
“I haven’t been this excited since I started,” says Murphy. “I’m so happy to be doing what I’m doing right now. I’ve knocked down some big walls. It’s going to help me out for a long time. So many ideas have been flowing since that switch. Since I let go.”
The solo project of The Knife’s Karin Dreijer, Fever Ray shares some of the band’s icy electronic atmosphere, but takes a slightly more organic-sounding approach. Fever Ray began after the Knife finished their promotional duties for their 2006 album Silent Shout and Dreijer had her second child; she worked on demos and song ideas by herself, then collaborated with producer Christoffer Berg, who had mixed the Knife’s music. Word of the project surfaced during the summer of 2008 and the first music, an instrumental version of “If I Had a Heart,” appeared on Fever Ray’s MySpace page that Fall. Fever Ray’s celebrated self titled album was released in 2009. Dreijer returned to the Knife with 2013’s Shaking the Habitual and the following year’s Shaken-Up Versions. In 2017, she issued the Fever Ray single “To the Moon and Back” shortly before the surprise release of the full-length Plunge, which receives a physical release in February 2018. Plunge was largely recorded in Karin Dreijer’s Stockholm studio in collaboration with the producers Paula Temple, Deena Abdelwahed, NÍDIA, Tami T, Peder Mannerfelt and Johannes Berglund. Fever Ray’s 2018 tour will be the first live shows since 2010.