Welcome to Electronic Playground. In this weekly column, we will cover tech-heavy music that is a large segment of the Alternative/Indie movement of today. In general, these bands do not see the popularity of some "less out there" acts, so do not be discouraged if you haven't heard of them. We will focus on all types of electronic music in a genre that is known for its subcategories.
Thanks to a recommendation from our leader, our next featured electronic artist is Seth Haley, or more well known by his stage name, Com Truise. This synthwave artist relies heavily on the synthesizer-driven retro tracks. Haley hails from New York and has been active in the electronic scene since 2007. Before 2010, Haley produced music under the monikers Sarin Sunday, SYSTM, and Airliner before assuming the ultimate pseudonym, Com Truise, in 2010. Haley has worked with other famous artists such as Daft Punk and has released three studio albums and four EPs as Com Truise. As Com Truise, Haley describes his music as “mid-fi synth-wave, slow-motion funk" and chooses to focus his music on a modern feel with fragments of inspiration from influences, Joy Division and New Order. This week, we are going to focus on songs from multiple albums to give a sense of the artist throughout his career. For the most part, Com Truise does a great job of pulling us in as many other synthwave artists have done before throughout the weeks, but he does take some risks that only sometimes pay off. While his approach to various things such as altering the pitches of certain sounds in and out of the melody do make us get a sense of "garage synthwave feel," it's easy to become annoyed when he flaunts it in your face too much. For example, the intro to Memory, a track from his Iteration album—which we chose not to include in this spotlight due to the description that is coming next—toys with us using multiple notes back to back that are not pleasant to hear in the same progression together unless you're cutting B-sides for a Michael Myers flick. Other times, these pitch adjustments make us appreciate the artist for taking freedoms outside of an easily modified comfort zone. It's easy to be perfect and on pitch every time when you're using computers, but doing it intentionally and making it sound good is what separates the good electronic musicians from the bad ones.
Propagation - Com Truise
This track is about as beautiful as synthwave gets and is really a fantastic addition to Com Truise's 2017 album, Iteration. Electronic music is no stranger to science fiction elements and Com Truise does not disappoint with an incredibly creepy video that only adds to the deeper levels of the track. Our main character is a basically a silhouette of a Stepford wife, simply going through the motions from day to day, not feeling or enjoying anything. As the monotonous lifestyle continues, we see our character begin showing as multiple different presences and engaging in self-mutilation as a means to feel. While this is not exactly out of the realm for what happens in society every day, we catch a glimpse of her eyes as they change entirely to black, which takes things to ten. The beat remains fairly consistent throughout the track with other fills thrown in to distract us from the underlying melody. The noises the instruments make themselves are not new, but the way they are arranged and mixed suck the listener in an almost three-dimensional way. If this is what is to come from Com Truise, we look forward to newer releases.
Cyanide Sisters - Com Truise
Cyanide Sisters, from the EP of the same name, is by far Com Truise's most popular track according to Spotify listener counts and after you hear it, it's easy to see why. Some of the versions of electronic songs can vary between which ones are released on youtube versus Spotify so the version reviewed is the Spotify version (for consistency). As with the others, Com Truise does a great job bringing us in with a heavy, rolling beat and vintage sound effects coming from each direction. Occasionally the cadence will change and the beat will soften, but the main melody remains pretty consistent throughout. This track is another example of when Haley took risks with Com Truise. The result is a perfectly orchestrated track that slowly develops over its three minutes. Even though the track is short, we feel as though nothing was left unsaid. Kind of ironic for an instrumental.
Honorable Mentions: "84' Dreamin," "Klymaxx," and "VHS Sex."
How to Listen:
Com Truise is another great synthwave artist we are lucky to have and we look forward to following Haley during the rest of his career. We tried these tracks with small speakers, headphones, and a standard 2.1 computer speaker setup. The tracks definitely benefit from the base but unless your speakers are a bit apart, you will lose out on the benefits of the phasing and mixing. Headphones can help with this as they are able to isolate frequencies due to not having to be incredibly loud. If Com Truise comes over the speakers at the club, folks better hold on. Ride the rolling bass lines take a trip to 1985 with the rest of us.
Artist review: 4/5. Haley is definitely a force to be reckoned with and fits nicely in the current culture of electronic music around today. With Com Truise, Haley has developed a style that is both retro and timeless. If you're not a fan of instrumentals, Com Truise might not be for you. Most electronic fans are aware of the possibility and tradeoff so that shouldn't be too much of a disappointment.