The music Seth Haley creates under the moniker Com Truise can best be understood as a series of variations on the same theme. Not to undersell the producer’s talent, but hearing just one track—any track—is all you need to get a handle on what he’s trying to accomplish. In Decay– the new collection of unreleased and demo tracks out on Ghostly International– shows that Haley arrived at his cohesive synth-heavy sound early in his career and perfected it though endlessly reworking the same basic components over and over.
Pick any of the album’s 13 tracks at random and you’re guaranteed to hear some combination of the same sonic elements: plodding drum beats dominated by kicks and snares; hazy square-wave synth melodies that loop and repeat with small flourishes; and thick, funk-informed bass lines that lurch along at a glacial pace. For the most part, these elements come together in the same way for each song. The musical gestalt that gives “Open” it’s hypnotic retro-futuristic feel also appears in “Colorvision,” “Klymaxx,” “Video Arkade,” and yeah, pretty much every track until the end of the album. Sure, “84′ Dreamin” has a faster tempo and fluttery electronic chirps and “Yxes” has tinny effects and tweaked vocal samples, but they’re just minor alterations to the same formula.
Here’s the thing though: the homogeneity isn’t really a problem. The formula offers such a pleasant listening experience that spending an hour in the grips of the same textures and tricks never becomes tedious. This is partially due to the music’s soundtrack-like quality—there’s no jarring transitions or pesky lyrics to tug at your attention too strongly. If you’re busy folding T-shirts or filling in the final boxes of a particularly engaging x-word puzzle, you wouldn’t even notice when one track ends and another begins. The whole album just billows by as one endless sheet of rippling synthesizer and undulating bass.
Though if you do tune in for a close listen, In Decay brings enough to the table to be fairly engaging. A lot of synthesizer-based music gets written off as a type of aestheticized nostalgia where stylistic embellishment is valued over hooks or songwriting chops. While this is largely true for Com Truise—even after multiple listens I can’t recall which specific melodies belong to which song—in this case it’s not really a relevant critique. The real draw is the isn’t the narrative or musical tension but the evocative nature of the sounds. Listening to, say, the pulsing bass and slinking electo lines of “Controlpop” pulls you into an alternate universe of Blade Runner megacities and laser-filled super clubs. Combined with a bit of imagination In Decay is the soundtrack to an fanciful future as pictured by mid-eighties cyberpunks, a place where roving hovercraft gangs racing down sun-baked freeways.