Colder is the solo project of French dance musician and graphic designer Marc Nguyen-Tan. After a 10 year break following his albums Again (2003) and Heat (2005), he returns with Many Colours. Tan has mostly kept a low profile, working as an art director and managing his creative agency “le cabinet. paris.”
A New Zealand-based film and pop culture writer, Barney McDonald is former founder and editor of Pavement, a youth culture magazine that ran from 1993-2006 and consistently pushed cultural & creative boundaries.
New wave English rock band New Order was formed by members Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris after the suicide of Ian Curtis, lead singer of their former band Joy Division. With the addition of Gillian Gilbert, they became a critically-acclaimed and highly influential band from the ’80s to today.
The Society of the Spectacle
A 1967 work of philosophy by French theorist Guy Debord, centered around Marxist critical theory. The text introduces the concept of the “spectacle,” or mass media and was important to the Situationist movement that took place from 1957-1972.
Singer and songwriter for legendary British band Radiohead, with whom he has released eight albums, Thom Yorke is also a multi-instrumentalist and solo artist ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the greatest singers of all time.
Michael Heizer is a Nevada-based contemporary artist specializing in large-scale sculptures and land art, a movement in which the landscape of the earth and the artwork are inextricably linked.
Both Manchester’s New Order and Paris’ Colder have spent a decade between albums pursuing other projects, perhaps never destined to return to the musical outfit that made their name and their reputation. With New Order revving up Music Complete, their first album since 2005’s Waiting For the Siren’s Call, the lesser known though equally impressive one-man-band Colder, aka Marc Nguyen-Tan, has likewise emerged with his first album since 2005, just a month or so shy of New Order’s return. The timing couldn’t be better for both.
New Order has straddled several decades, lineup changes, the death of singer Ian Curtis when the band was Joy Division, the collapse of their record label Factory and countless shifts in genre, technology, popularity and enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Colder put out two iconic, even laconic, albums in the early to mid-2000s then promptly disappeared in the wake of the collapse of Trevor Jackson’s label, Output, which had gently steered 2003’s Again and 2005’s Heat into a very credible position in the annals of modern music. Tan’s contract was in dispute so he wisely eschewed the music industry while it waxed and waned through the digital revolution, setting up camp in the mountains of Spain to make esoteric experimental jazz and cool his heels while the world around him remained in flux.
Fans of dark, sexy dance music—who grew up on a staple diet of Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire, Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop, Berlin-era Bowie, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Depeche Mode, Throbbing Gristle and a host of other groundbreaking artists—were drawn to Colder’s compulsive melodies and yearning, mystical lyrics and vocals. Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Tan lured his listeners into his world with the self-assurance of one who knows how to activate the mind while engaging the soul. Songs like “Silicon Sexy,” “Wrong Baby,” “Shiny Star,” “Crazy Love” and “To The Music” stopped you in your tracks and left no doubt that this music was made by a man with infinite insight, skill and integrity, which is why we’ve been without Colder for a decade.
Thankfully something changed in recent times, and Tan has decided to reactivate the project that brought him to the attention of a small but devoted following. Perhaps Colder’s third, eagerly anticipated album Many Colours will bring Tan the larger audience his music deserves. It’s the work of a mature artist, now ensconced in Barcelona, who had the courage and forbearance to wait till the time was right to re-emerge—not an easy ask when the imperative is to keep the wheels turning and momentum building. His thematic concerns have broadened and deepened too, giving Many Colours both a sense of hope and an undeniable honesty. It’s the album we need right now. Music complete? This is just the beginning.
Barney McDonald: The music industry has changed considerably since you released your last Colder album a decade ago. What changes have you noticed, and which ones concern or excite you the most?
Colder: I sort of like how the ‘market’ of music is getting saturated with new releases, live acts, ideas, recordings and production. And how this phenomenon is somehow killing the trends, the waves and the ‘genres’ by turning them into something more blurry, where boundaries are losing their definition. It’s probably not a good thing for most musicians because it means less money in most of the pockets. But in the meantime, I feel that the market is losing its grip on this essence, this creativity, and that this creativity is going to better places, for better uses and purposes. It’s a process that just started a few years ago. It’s going to last probably for another decade or much more, and majors are not dead yet. But there is some hope for the future, and I have faith that in the end this transition we’re going through will result in positive changes—in a more meaningful relationship between people and culture in general.
“This phenomenon is somehow killing
the trends, the waves and the
‘genres’ by turning them into something
more blurry, where boundaries
are losing their definition.”
BM: Is music the powerful form and force of social change it once was, or has it lost much of its currency through digital commodification?
C: I don’t think objectively that music has been this powerful form of social change that you’re mentioning. I think the contrary: that it has always served the purpose of what we call ‘the market,’ making it always stronger through a very gradual process during the last two or three centuries. To me it all goes back to Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle.
BM: Have you considered forgoing music altogether in favor of other forms of artistic expression?
C: Not really. I always carried on playing and recording. It’s just that I didn’t feel for a long time that I should make it public.
BM: What other art forms engage you the most as an artist and consumer?
C: Every process that is the result of a strong personal questioning and lots of hours of work as well. Everything that’s the result of a global reflection on your particular position in this world and a quest for independence and singularity. It could be Thom Yorke. Even though I’m not fan of everything he’s doing, I like the strategies he’s been trying to develop over the last few years in order to push his work. And there’s the work of an American artist like Michael Heizer, and many others.