Review Summary: the com truise we've been waiting to hear
Today is the age of the microgenre, and unfortunately New Jersey's Com Truise has been unfairly tied to one that has more or less done him a bit of a disservice. Chillwave (or god forbid, “indietronica”) has been almost ubiquitously pervaded by acts that are content in riding the fashionable waves of retroism that seem to be all the rage today without the least bit of sincerity or interest in the music they make. Analog synth tones (probably from a VST) and female vocal samples abound, the “synthpop born anew” fashion trend seems to be more interested in the prerogative effects of music rather than the music itself, which to anyone who doesn't also listen to music for the same reasons comes off as a little more than annoying, and wholly useless. While Com Truise theoretically fits into the stylistic tendencies of the trend, there has always been something else to his music that gave it a little bit more substance, a certain sincerity to his sound that no other act who accepts the title of “chillwave artist” has really yet achieved.
In addition to this, while Truise has been pumping out tunes since early sometime in 2010, he's never actually released anything that's all that good. Most of the time a record like Galactic Melt
or In Decay
hits the rotation, it's hard to feel anything other than a sort of amused disinterest. In theory it could be good, but all the warm synth pads, sampled 808 drum beats, and a hint of something else under the hood sound never really did anything other than kind of meander along and forget to do anything interesting. The most amusing part of listening to Com Truise's back catalog was thinking to yourself, “Well this could work, if it was done just a bit better. Maybe his next record will be cool.”
Luckily for both the New Jersey synthhead and us, Com Truise has potentially found his sound, finally, among all the other copycat acts and boring trend riders who he never really fit in with in the first place. Wave 1
, aside from a few remissions into all too familiar territory, has infused the rather lethargic former approach of his first two albums with a brand new energy that finally brings to light the never quite present undertones of IDM (probably born from an interest in early house) into his washed out, retro synth aesthetic. Now, don't go confusing this with something like Boards of Canada, because other than a love for electric nostalgia there are almost no other similarities. Wave 1
is still very much rooted in the synthpop and synthwave influences that catalyzed the creating of the “chillwave” microgenre, but instead of focusing on adhering to the constraints of the tag itself, Wave 1
uses the potential of the sonic palette provided to craft an almost wholly unique new sound that in itself speaks volumes for the function of retro aesthetic in contemporary music.
opens up like you would expect a Com Truise EP to open up, with warm synth pads, groovy hooks, and smooth, dancable beats that manage to somehow sound much more energetic that almost anything he's released in he past. But it's not until the EP hits its halfway mark that Com Truise confidently announces the rebirth of his music. Valis Called Control (an affectionate reference to one of the gods of this retro synth phenomenon, Phillip K. Dick) is a rapid, glitchy, energetic, and surprising track if only because of how much it has packed into the almost five minute runtime. Not to be outdone, the following track, Subsonic, altogether eclipses the former in being possibly the best song that's ever been called chillwave (if you can even call this chillwave anymore, which I sincerely doubt). The opening early 90's rave pads give way to a fast, LFO-heavy shower of synthetic strings and leads that sparkle with creative intensity that no chillwave artist has quite managed to capture. Managing to blend the danceable, accessible inspiration of original his sonic palette with the newfound interest in complex layering and slightly off kilter rhythmic sections, this is the Com Truise everyone has been waiting to hear.
Rather disappointingly, the follow up track seems more like a leftover from the old days than the new Com Truise we were just exposed to (perhaps it's the influence of collaborator Joel Ford, which would save face, if only just a bit). With a characteristically annoying “chillwave” vocal sample and a thudding bassline underneath, it's almost a good thing that Wave 1
was an EP and not a full length, so that oversights like this can be sort of forgotten in lieu of what preceded it. The rest of the EP has a few surprises here and there, and seems more like what we would expect as a closing statement from an album that contained a track like Subsonic, which almost single-handedly gives hope for the Com Truise we have waiting for us in the future.
In general, the EP is more or less a playground for artists to experiment with new things without risking the failure of a full length. What Com Truise has done with Wave 1
is provide us with just enough reassurance that not only is he still alive, kicking, and doing interesting things with his own sonic palette, but with the phantoms of a genre that only seemed to do him disservice in the past as well. While it's still a bit shortsighted to consider this music chillwave, Wave 1
serves as what might be the height of this microgenre if not only for the two tracks, Valis Called Control and Subsonic, sandwiched in the middle of this meaty new EP. If you liked the Com Truise of old, you will almost certainly enjoy this, and if you've ever been skeptical about the quality of music that chillwave would be able to produce, Wave 1
should dispel all doubts. Highly recommended.