revor Jackson’s Output Recordings doesn’t make too many mistakes. With a roster including Mu, LCD Soundsystem, and The Rapture—the latter two in coordination with DFA—the label has established itself as a home for some of the industry’s more accomplished tech and disco artists. Perhaps that’s why Marc Nguyen Tan, aka Colder, and his debut record, Again, felt like such a fuckery. I mean, stale Joy Division bass-lines and fourth-hand digital dub pimpled by what sounded like a drunken Marseillaise tracking Dave Gahan?
Fittingly, Again was one of 2003/04’s most polarizing releases, warmed by glowing reviews in The London Sunday Times, Mojo, and NME (erm, of course) but lampooned elsewhere for its uninspired retreads. I’d like to say his follow-up, Heat, won’t receive the same schizo-treat, but all the benchmarks are there. Vulcanized basslines, ice-burn synth washes, and helium-fused guitar lines again serve as his trademarks, and Nguyen has yet to shed his reliance on preset dub-lines to offset his lumpen beats. He may seem a bit more comfortable with English, but his lyrics have waned with his accent.
Opener “Wrong Baby” trips over a rainy back-beat with repeated phrases like “I got such a crush” and “You’re my wrong baby love,” never stepping out of its simple groove. Sure, electronic music is based on subtly augmented repetition. But where’s the rise and the dusk here? This is darkness blotting out the form, a sheet of greens and reds smothered in black velvet. Likewise, “To the Music” is fork-in-the-cerebellum digislop, playing Bolan’s glam and stomp without the swagger. “And she starts to dance to the music / Slowly by my side / And she starts dancing to the music now.” Imagine that repeated ad nauseum to a prepubescent guitar stroke and you get the idea.
Oddly enough though, just like on Again, Tan saves his best songs for the end, fading with the translucent tandem “Fade Away” and “Burnt Out.” Both step out of the shadows lyrically, to tell of sagging loves and the impossibility of human connection. Not content to rely on repetition for affect any longer, Tan raises his voice to his compositions, something that seems impossibly difficult for him. A midnight-oil slick, cut on bony beats and chipped synths, he invokes the heaving drudgery of love in the cold that those he apes mastered so long ago.
The implication is obvious, right? You’re grinning on those clichés, something to build on, wait until next year, better luck next time. I feel like Joe Buck. But we said the same thing last time around. Consumer-friendly sage that I am, I’m duty bound to share my solution with you. Wait until Tan is five records deep, couple the final tracks of each onto a single comp, and you’ve got yourself a masterstroke. And an extra seventy-five dollars for sliders and waffle fries to boot. You can thank me at the drive-thru.