Ladies and gentlemen, pray turn up your collars, sigh and stare wistfully off into the distance…
Those who fought the electroclash wars at the turn of the millennium will no doubt remember Colder. Frenchman Marc Nguyen Tan’s alter ego was first spotted keeping company with the likes of Four Tet and LCD Soundsystem on Trevor Jackson’s Output label, a breeding ground for the then-hip young genres on the street: electroclash, the post-punk renaissance and chillwave with its lo-fi electronics and “way too cool to feel” vocal delivery.
As with LCD Soundsystem, Colder were lumped in with all three. If anybody could match James Murphy’s masterpiece of ennui, ‘Losing My Edge’, for sheer jaded elegance then it would be Colder, whose icy analogue synths and dislocated vocal delivery automatically marked them out not just as a scenesters’ band, but an 80s revival scenesters’ band at that.
Never mind that you can trace the origins of chillwave past ‘Being Boiled’ and ‘Warm Leatherette’ to Suicide, Silver Apples, and even White Noise in 1969, Colder were an 80s throwback act. Albums ‘Again’ and ‘Heat’ didn’t exactly set the world alight, but were impressive in their steadfast adherence to the signature sound. Tan, meanwhile, spent the intervening years opening a design studio – a very cool one, you imagine – while the time away has allowed Colder’s reputation to ferment nicely making this something of an anticipated return.
What’s changed? Not a lot. Tan is still dragging hard on a Gauloises in the middle of an existential but oh-so stylish crisis and there’s still enough musical space to accommodate an Ikea. Nevertheless, as well as an added complexity to the music (the use of piano chords throughout is particularly effective), there is a more mature and – incredibly – an even more introspective sound to ‘Many Colours’. Tan’s delivery has changed too. Previously he sounded like Genesis P-Orridge, now he’s gone the full Ian Curtis; except, that is, on ‘Stationery Remote Anger’, when he sounds like Ralf Hütter with the song’s funereal tale of airborne dread making the most of Tan’s talent for lyrical imagery.
A guest appearance from French dream pop singer Owlle on the highlight, ‘Midnight Fever’, proves a turning point after which the tracks seem to loosen their shoulders, relatively speaking. Colder reveals new tricks, vocal melodies co-exist with spacious synth and new sounds appear, only to be bent and twisted out of shape. ‘Your Kind’ promises to take us out on a rousing note, but then along comes ‘Silence’, a mournful ballad worthy of the if-only-Ian-had-lived Joy Division that exists in your head.
By rights this 39-minute wallow in malaise should be a chore. And certainly it seems like one at first. But if you can forget that it’s 2015, the year of the short-attention span, and spend a bit of quality time with it what emerges is a layered and strangely addictive release. ‘Many Colours’ is Colder’s best yet and without doubt the year’s premier chillwave-revival record.