Synthetic funk act Com Truise’s ‘Wave 1’ impresses
Though our culture is beginning to embrace the ‘90s as a source of nostalgia, the long reign of the 1980s over our collective imaginations soldiers on. For one, we still seem to have an appetite for engorged spectacle films about Wall Street executives. In the world of music, I suspect it will be even longer before the glittering retro-computer appeal of the Reagan years fades from view.
At their best, modern acts appropriating ‘80s sounds can make music that is bracing and direct, doing their best to avoid sentimentality and instead making the artificiality of the music work for them. Com Truise’s latest album, “Wave 1,” is less than half an hour long and far from a masterpiece. Still, its synthetic funk is executed well enough to bring some much-needed sunshine our long winter.
Com Truise — a spoonerism of Tom Cruise — is Seth Haley, a New York-born producer who began his work in the drum-and-bass scene before moving to the much shinier territory he frequents today. “Wave 1” begins with a spurt of computer babble, reminiscent of music that would play under the credits in a 1980s science fiction film.
After a few seconds, however, the first track, “Wasat,” shows its true colors. The drum machines pound, the synth patterns sound lighthearted and, though the song has no vocals, make the foundation for a catchy tune. Though the songs evoke the 1980s, there is no trace of syrupy nostalgia. Instead, the music is aloof and cool despite featuring some infectious beats.
Though one could complain that the album is “mechanical,” this hardly seems like an insult to such precisely calculated music. All of the elements Com Truise assembles fit together naturally, and the result is often music that’s light without being disposable. The third track, “Declination,” is the most conventional pop tune on the record. Joel Ford lends his breathy vocals to the track, which Truise distorted to bring into harmony with the rest of the sounds.
Even though there are lyrics, they are almost beside the point. “Declination” certainly resembles the popular notion of what an ‘80s pop song would sound like, but twisted and intellectualized. Upbeat and built on solid funk rhythms, it remains, like the rest of the album, cool and laid back. This remove does sap the lyrics of some of their emotional power, but it retains an irresistible charm nonetheless.
“Declination” is a strong track because of its more accessible tone and vocal accompaniment, but the best track on “Wave 1” earns that distinction by taking the opposite approach. Lacking vocals or even much of a catchy synth-chorus, it starts in a tangle of overlapping beats until it settles into a more traditional dance tune.
Halfway through, however, the beats clear away and the computer sounds pick up the slack. Coming in here and there in the song, there is an echo-laced guitar sample that gives the song an unexpected emotional resonance. When so much of the rest of the album is hitting purely the body or the mind, it is rewarding to hear something that can engage the heart.
“Wave 1” is seven tracks long, which is a perfect length for this kind of album. It’s no trifle, as several of its songs distinguish themselves by providing some pleasurable sounds and beats. Those looking for some relief from winter’s gray grip could do worse than give Com Truise a few spins.