A homespun experimentalist-turned-household name, Wally De Backer (born in Bruges, Belgium in 1980) thrived at a local level in the tight-knit Australian music scene before his third album changed everything. As Gotye, De Backer started out making largely sample-based compositions (see 2003’s Boardface) and went on to integrate quirky live instrumentation and home-studio layering on DIY songs as likely to feature stadium-suited vocal echoes as soul-style horn runs. That gives his music the feeling of self-fulfilling prophecy, as if simply orchestrating elaborate pop songs—while singing and playing most of the instruments—can make one manifest overnight as an actual pop star. That happened for De Backer, of course, with “Somebody That I Used to Know,” a he-said/she-said earworm duet with New Zealand native Kimbra that topped charts around the world and earned him three Grammys for 2011’s Making Mirrors. Since then he has co-founded the experimental electronic label Spirit Level and continued to dabble in garage-rock trio The Basics, all without losing the stylistic diversity that marks everything he does. Flexing a balance of earnest emotion and arty daring that recalls Peter Gabriel’s prime (observe the galloping “Eyes Wide Open”), De Backer reliably crafts soaring emotional epiphanies from an ever-changing, collage-like splay of ideas.
BORNMay 21, 1980