By Blanca Méndez
You stand in the middle of an empty street in the darkness of early morning, a cold fog creeping toward you in the absolute silence. A light flickers feebly in the window of a nearby warehouse, and in the distance rows of sleek, silver skyscrapers carve a jagged skyline. The year is 2036 and the city is Tokyo and you’re breaking all kinds of rules by being out at night. So is whoever left that light on in the warehouse. This is Kordan’s vision of dystopia, their first full-length album, The Longing. The Brooklyn-based trio met in Puerto Rico in the early 2000s, but it wasn’t until they later all converged in New York that they formed Kordan and began making their distinct brand of eerie dream pop. With The Longing, the band has crafted a tale of tortured love, a romance condemned to failure in a world governed by logic (or something like it).
“Dawn” opens the album with an intimidating, military-esque march of an introduction that gives way to an upbeat rebellion against the day, a call for the death of dawn. And this affinity for the night continues in “Shinjuku,” which declares, “let’s go fuck, dance, cry, love, and live now…let’s go and dance all night.” In much of dystopian literature, where time is carefully planned and coordinated, night means sleep and recharging for the next day, and defying this predetermined off-time to pursue unplanned and not pre-approved activity warrants severe punishment. That’s why “Shinjuku” especially has a very futuristic speakeasy feel, where the rebellious gather at some tucked away hideout to live free of the rules of their dystopia and dance the night away. It’s like the underground’s answer to the soma clubs of Brave New World.
First single “Mirror” begins with a rippling synth crescendo and becomes a gorgeously layered song to get lost in. With lyrics like “I kill, kill, kill myself for you, while you die, you die, you die anew,” a scene more dismal than the end of Romeo and Juliet, the song steers dangerously into emo territory, but no emo song has ever compelled me to dance, so I’ll forgive this faux pas. Perhaps the most explicitly dystopian track on the album, “Fantasy Nation” is an ethereal song in which the wispy quality of Arthur’s voice is perfect for expressing the idea of a “nation of fantasy.” After all, dystopia is usually the product of a utopian ideal, and one person’s utopia is another’s dystopia. The line separating the two seemingly opposing concepts is a fine line that Kordan walks with agility.
My only significant issue with the album is with the lyrics, which are mostly thin and sparse. For creating that bleak dystopian landscape, a bare lyricism makes sense and, for the most part, proves effective to the overall theme of The Longing. But with little else surrounding them, the recurring images of death and ghosts and neon feel more repetitive than part of a larger literary device. Despite this, The Longing achieves a lovely balance between the grim concept of the album and the contrasting buoyancy of the music. You might feel a little guilty for getting down to a song that says, “all I feel is the hurt of the world through me,” but dance anyway!