Colder has just completed his third, very long-awaited album, Many Colours, and it’s abundantly clear from the opening strains of the title track that the lengthy absence since 2002 debut, Again, and 2005 successor, Heat, hasn’t diminished Marc Nguyen Tan’s keen sense of mood and melody. In fact, as the remainder of Many Colour’s 10 mesmerising tracks attest, if anything the nine-year respite has given Tan a renewed sense of purpose and direction that reveals itself with a subtle beauty that resonates and endures. This is a mature work made by an artist of rare purity and insight, a man who makes music for the right reasons, or not at all.
Previously known for his trademark intense, sensual, almost apocalyptic compositions, Tan’s latest album won’t disappoint existing fans, though the layering runs deeper, the emotions more considered and the overall effect harder to evade, as if you would want to. When an artist disappears for such an extended period, expectation of their return is rightly weighed down by fear that they have lost their creative spark or that the motivation behind it is less than noble. With Many Colours, Colder has crafted the ideal antidote to such concerns, in the process producing one of the most compelling and original records in years, an album that continues the cycle begun in 2002 whilst taking the conversation in other, less familiar directions.
Signing with Trevor Jackson’s seminal label Output (Four Tet, Circlesquare), Tan’s two albums cemented his reputation as a masterful producer capable of creating sonically satisfying dance music alongside introspective, thoughtful songs. British electronic pop pioneers Depeche Mode were impressed enough to commission Tan to remix their track Clean, which he duly transformed into a twitchy, distorted slice of agit-pop. Another of his heroes and influences, The Cure, picked Colder to support them on a European tour.
After stopping Colder in 2007, Tan relocated to the Small mountain village of Xalo in Spain, to reconfigure his future as an artist and to reconsider his life as a human being. The ensuing créative burst of activity led to the writing of the 10 tracks on Many Colours, resulting in an album of singular grâce and power.
Opening track Many Colours rejuvenates the best elements of recent decades of modern music, juxtaposing its dominant synthetic template with a deeply affecting organic quality underscored by Tan’s use of piano, an instrument that appears on many of the album’s songs. Echoing the more experimental edges of The Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Kraftwerk, Joy Division, Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark and dozens of other reference points, Tan has produced a timeless album that belies its genesis in the mountains of Spain. The album’s mood is urban and urbane, taking the listener into the heart of the metropolitan darkness haunting Tan’s dreams. His spoken-word lyrics reflect ongoing concerns about the current state of the world, with Tan combining the levity of his music with the gravity of his vocals, and yet he never loses sight of the purpose of each song. This is an album to be assimilated and appreciated, a record that demands to be understood, loved and shared.
Many Colours is an impressive, accomplished work made by an artist at ease with himself, but not the world. If the album is the beginning of a new creative phase in the career of Marc Nguyen Tan, we have much to look forward to.
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