Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009

Jack Grace
Jack Grace
Jack Grace
Jack Grace
Jack Grace
Jack Grace
Jack Grace
Jack Grace

Com Truise at Doug Fir on 3/27/19 / Photos/review

 By MATT HANSEN // Synthwave futurist sells out Doug Fir ahead of new album release

 Photos By: MAHIR HRUSTIC //

Electronic musicians often seem mysterious by choice. But the amount of intrigue that has risen around Seth Haley is rare. To start, there’s the obvious spoonerism of Tom Cruise that he donned as his alias. To the best of our knowledge, while Cruise is an icon of 80s movies, Haley has never admitted any sort of admiration for or influence from the Hollywood mogul. Com Truise was simply a good name for the protagonist of Haley's albums – a synthetic astronaut who searches deep space for utopian society on other planets.

These days, with so many costumed Daft Punk clones running amok, Haley may be the only guy who tells the story of a robot rather than tries to look like one. And audiences have been highly receptive to Haley's live shows, even sans light-up helmets or other gimmicky stimuli. 2017 saw Com Truise make two appearances in Portland, touring behind the album Iteration. So with a new album less than a month away, timing couldn't be better for playing a sold-out Doug Fir crowd.

Wednesday's show started off with Australian Jack Grace, whose impassioned voice and indie sensibilities were in contrast to the anticipated night of instrumental electronic, but not at all unappreciated. Grace performed numbers off his release If I Tremble, the title track filling the room with somber piano keys and harmonious builds of Grace's voice. “Downstate,” with its low-end grooves and layered clicking rhythms, had Grace shining as an unexpectedly diverse primer.

Com Truise's set was decidedly different from Grace's precise crooning, yet one could make the case that the headliner’s sound is decidedly different from most things in electronic right now. If you asked three people in the audience to identify a track’s name, two would likely shrug and go back to watching Haley mix, mesmerized. That’s because a Com Truise show places little importance on titles, even less than most electronic acts. Yet each song still retains its own aura while drawing from the same theme – that being Haley's invention of a genre within synth-wave. He calls it “mid-fi synth-wave, slow-motion funk.”

Haley's versatile microgenre, coupled with allusions to the 1980s – an epoch that is the most driving of his obsessions – form the aesthetic of the Com Truise sound. “VHS Sex” is a perfect example. Performed live, it begins with the voices of an intimate encounter gone hushed and densely reverberated. Soon after, a non-human voice announces the name of the track before pinging synths jumpstart the song’s journey over billowy cushions of bass. Seeing Haley's make this happen with only the occasional slight grin of satisfaction (as you might have guessed) is quite impressive. Likewise, the audience’s enthusiastic recognition as he launched into the first bars, is evidence that “VHS Sex” was the first they ever heard of Truise, going all the back to his first LP Galactic Melt.

But other than the track “'84 Dreamin,” you would have to know Haley personally to suss out just what the other tracks are referencing. Truise's sound has leaned a little more Sci-Fi since his first two albums. And while no one may remember them, his titles sound more like parts to a futuristic spaceship rather than the cinematic nostalgia of his previous releases. When Haley played his new single, “Existence Schematic” off the forthcoming album Persuasion System, it evoked kaleidoscopic waves of synth, expertly trilling and bending in our lobes over a thumping breakbeat.

Approaching midnight, it became apparent that some in the crowd were reaching for their phones, feeling the slippage of time while Haley was hard at work over his mixing board. Was it the way every song seemed to ride a euphoric drip of technicolor images in our heads? Or maybe that Haley's muse is the same familiar escapism some look for in 1980s kitsch? One way or the other, fans left knowing that that Com Truise was kindred to them – as producer, daydream astronaut, or all-around synthophile hero.

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