Seth Haley, a.k.a. Com Truise, is a graphic designer who worked in advertising for about five years before his music became popular. By his own admission, a fondness for the sounds of the 1980s is something he only developed later in life. He is also open about the influence of Boards of Canada on his music, and bemusedly dubbed it “mid-fi, synth-wave, slow-motion funk” in a 2011 interview. The middle term has recently regained quasi-serious usage, even Chelsea Manning likes it. Iteration is the latest installment in what he claims is a narrative about an eponymous robot astronaut.
Haley’s early work, such as Galactic Melt and Cyanide Sisters, always tended toward the monotonous. He operates with a limited array of sounds, cultivating crisp and interchangeable pop bangers with electro drums crosscut by raster lines, all hearkening back to a corniness preferable to our own. Iteration is fittingly titled, as it takes his repetitive tendencies to unexplored heights. This music is totally disposable. If one of these tracks was shot in battle, it would not be counted among the dead. It would be as if it never went to war in the first place. I’m not exaggerating, some sections sound almost exactly the same.
My tone belies my entire feelings. I have enjoyed some of Haley’s work before. The shimmering intro to “Usurper” on this album is the only thing I desired to listen to more than once. A similar track from Galactic Melt called “Ether Drift” was my first favorite of his. Cyanide Sisters was a bearable venture into Boards of Canada tributes combined with Haley’s snappy juke. His self-released work under the alias Airliner is in the same vein, but the beats don’t sound like they’re lurching in crutches as much. “Dienydido” and “Everyday”, off the EP None, exhibit some of his catchiest hip-hop cuts and switches, which can also be found on In Decay’s “Controlpop”, and this album’s “Dryswch”. In fact, you can find analogous tunes on almost every Com Truise release. There are some synth bells and breathy vox accompanying the usual tools on “Vacuume”, making it stand out a little bit. It all instantiates the VHS dream well. Haley is able if anything, but the project itself is unremarkable.
There is a mythical insect in Kobo Abe’s novel The Ark Sakura that ingests its own shit over and over in a closed circuit. Its legs are atrophied, since it has no need to wander in search of food. This is a good metaphor for current electronic music. Witch House, Chillwave, Seapunk, Vaporwave, Synthwave, Retrowave, Fashwave, Hardvapour; a flood of consciously half-assed shareware beats spreading through malignant Bandcamps. Gone is that excitement of the New, the admirable pretension of something like Warp’s Artificial Intelligence, now it is not a question of quality, but of what loop or atmosphere you’re in the mood for, even by the artists who were featured on that series. Aphex’s new tunes are crap, Autechre’s new tunes are crap, it’s all crap, and these hazy flights of fancy into consumer trash with depressing dissociative themes should be singed off the planet with a hot wire like a tick. The perpetual flight after lost childhoods of a recycling bin culture, recovering and commodifying what nostalgia we can, even if we have to borrow it from someone else. Excepting oases here and there like Posh Isolation, there is no real experimentation. We have Meme Catalogue, chopped anime with Yung Bae playing over it on YouTube, the over-wrought kitchen spoon ballads of Shlohmo, aging Amon Tobins and Clarks replaying the early 2000s, and herds of pale-faced Flylo and Dilla fans sequestered in childhood bedrooms punching Roland SP-404s and dreaming of co-headlining Tycho.
Some of the tracks on this record sound like polished versions of things I made in FL Studio when I was thirteen, and that’s not a boast. If I had fun once and it was terrible, then so be it, let there be more pain. The part of me that has fun listening to Com Truise should be vestigial at this stage in human evolution. Haley channels its primordial will in an interview from April of last year, describing his creative philosophy: “I think [it’s] really…just…I do what makes me happy. I write what makes me happy, you know? I totally listen to my own music a lot, most of the time when I’m flying. I think I just try to be happy with all of it. Yeah, just really, really, really enjoy what I’m doing, you know?”.