Record label: Mille Plateaux (Germany)
Release date: March 2002
For the “clicks and cuts” sympathizers, most of Mille Plateaux’s output is considered worthy listening. The past work of SND (made up of Mark Fell and Mat Steel) has been received fairly well, but this album seems to be garnering a louder buzz. Tender Love, SND’s third full-length, steps outside of the usual influences of the glitch-ridden subgenre and takes its cues straight from mainstream R&B as well as 2-step. Certainly sounded like an intriguing project, and considering past flirtations with hip-hop and house, I anticipated some interesting digital tinkering to take place. While some of the album is engaging, Tender Love is a lukewarm experience, an exercise in trial and error that doesn’t hold up as an album. Eleven tracks on vinyl, 15 on CD - all untitled and it’s just as well. If anything, it shares more in common with those beats and breaks records specially made for DJs and producers: they weren’t meant to be listened to like regular albums. Each track is its own entity and while they all share something in common, it doesn’t connect as a whole. So substitute the beats and breaks for clicks and cuts – conveniently packaged for the IDM purist too ashamed to admit that they actually like listening to MJ Cole every once in a while.
There are a few brief moments where this intermarriage of urban syncopation and digital miscues strike gold. Four of them would make a killer 12-inch single. It’s as if MJ Cole were stripped of his strings, piano, and vocalists, forced to work with only freeze-dried bass and snare drums and the occasional laptop-generated chord. Some tracks just suffer from bad placement. Track two (on the vinyl version) is quite beautiful and its languid sprawl makes it the perfect closer, but instead it’s used to introduce us to the album’s theme. Clocking in over 12 minutes, a beat doesn’t start up for three, and even then it’s a lonely click. If SND had concluded the vinyl with this track, I would have been eating out of the palm of their hand.
But alas, Tender Love is about five tracks too many. At a maximum of six of their best tracks, it could have been the “glitch-step” mini-album of the year; at 11 tracks deep for vinyl and 15 for CD, it’s a bit of a mess. The filler lessens the album’s mystique: hopefully, they’ll trim the fat and bless us with an EP next time.