We wait patiently for it to drive us somewhere, but it abandons us at the last moment and explains that it didn’t just feel up to it tonight.
Seth Haley hasn’t been quiet since the last full-length Com Truise LP in 2011. There were two EPs (Wave 1 in 2014, Silicon Tare in 2016) and a range of other activities. Not that any of that matters when you bone down and race into this 12-track slab o’ fun. Call it synthwave, chillwave, chillax wave or a good time, this effort, like much of what Com Truise has offered before, stands strong on atmosphere and vibe even if the compositions don’t always move and groove in ways that stick with you. Maybe that’s part of the charm, replicating those weird synth records from days of yore that had few if any hooks but dazzled with their sonic explorations and analog(ish) warmth.
Haley’s compositions tend to settle into something warm and gooey and, more or less, stay still, getting floaty without getting fancy. The intention may be to take us on some sort of spiritual quest, get us into a transcendental state where we can contemplate our oneness with the Glow Stick of Truth or to consider (for those who partake) the universes present in the DNA of our favorite herbal strain. Or it could be that our artist just wants us to relax, turn off our minds and float downstream.
Let’s take that as a possibility. It might be that these chillwave kids are like the modal jazz warriors of their time, composers intent on letting the music happen on its own terms, eschewing the hustle and bustle of pop structures, the craze that hits when the chorus comes along and we sing its praises to high heaven. If that’s true, then Haley may be the movement’s Joe Henderson (at least) and, in certain measures, its young Coltrane. Haley doesn’t yet have the compositional panache required to make us abandon everything and follow him but he’s getting there. Some of the reluctance to get behind him full stop comes in the manner which these songs develop.
“Dryswch” and “Ephemeron” make their case at a pace most ambient artists would find glacial. What part of the tune is intended to lead and what part should follow? Instead, it hovers over us like smoke that’s neither stale nor 100 percent pleasant. We wait patiently for it to drive us somewhere but instead it circles the block, working up its courage, then abandoning us at the last moment to phone from a remote phone booth and explain that it didn’t just feel up to it tonight.
It’s okay to pull those shenanigans and perhaps there are listeners out there who get down with that kind of slow build, hover and leave vibe. One thinks that Com Truise is above that and could really be making some of the sharpest, heart-stopping compositions of our time, perhaps music that makes us tear out our own hearts and smash them on the dance floor when we become overwhelmed by the intensity. Hyperbolic? It’s only chillwave and you like it? Maybe. But some kind of deeper action/reaction seems paramount to this dude’s survival and he’s good enough that we want just that from him.
This isn’t a terrible album but its meandering tendencies might make some pine for more driving, raging material such as that put forth by the likes of Tommy ’86. But on Iteration, a deep, narcotic sleep may be the best metaphor for the sounds emanating from the sphere of the unknown.