Com Truise's chrome-plated synth jams have always come across as a kind of musical mood ring. In loose, romantic, wistful moments, the best of Seth Haley's high-sheen outings ("Brokendate" or "VHS Sex," for instance) appeal to a nostalgia-junkie area of the brain over which few of us have much control. However, in harder-nosed, colder frames of mind, the same music's hyper-stylized maneuvers can occasionally seem tiresome.
Regardless of one's feelings about Com Truise and his music, it would seem inarguable that Haley's sound is one that could easily drift into banal self-parody if not developed over time. And time is certainly something Haley has allowed himself plenty of in formulating this, his largest collection of new work since 2011's Galactic Melt LP. After seemingly being everywhere in 2011 and 2012, Com Truise's 2013 offered only a solitary remix for Canadian producer Blood Diamonds and a smattering of DJ and live shows. Listening to Wave 1, there appears to have been no grand overhaul during the time Haley has spent on semi-lockdown, but neither has there been total creative stasis.
At seven tracks, only one of which clocks in at under four minutes, Wave 1 is more of a mini-album than an EP, and it kicks off with a clear heads-up that anyone looking for a radical leap into the musical unknown should probably just keep on walking. "Wasat" is a two-minute introductory vignette comprised entirely of classic Com Truise ingredients—there are steady, deliberate drums, space-transmission vocal snippets, a keening, gleaming synth line, and glowing background pads. Next up is another standard-issue workout, "Mind," which rests on familiarly languid drums, pads, and tottering pin-pricks of synth. Possibly the least remarkable cut on the EP, it has a mid-album feel that makes it an odd choice as the first proper track on Haley's first collection of new material in over two years.
Things get more interesting on "Declamation," an overtly pop effort that falls on the right side of cheeseball despite Joel Ford contributing an Auto-Tuned guest vocal that wouldn't have been out of place on Daft Punk's Random Access Memories. After that, things lapse back to the familiar, with "Subsonic"'s smooth linearity and far-off machine voices, the wafting synths and foregrounded percussion of "Valis Called (Control)," and the swooshing space-odyssey aesthetic of "Miserere Mei" all emanating squarely from Haley's comfort zone. However, what saves Wave 1 from being totally unremarkable is the EP's final number (and title track). Founded on a beautifully spectral, Robin Guthrie/Cocteau Twins-indebted guitar line, it's an utterly enchanting listen. It's not the first time Haley has mined such territory (see "Polyhurt" from 2011's Fairlight EP), but on "Wave 1," he realizes it with uncommon skill and a spine-tingling ear for melody.
Strong ending aside, the central lesson of Wave 1 would seem to be that Com Truise's likely longevity as a creative force is a little uncertain. A year and more of thought and (presumably) heavy studio time has yielded something that frequently sounds like the same old Com Truise, in second gear, trotting out the same old '80s synthoid tropes. However, in the engaging "proper song" experiment of "Declination" and the sheer beauty of "Wave 1," there is just enough intrigue for his subsequent moves to remain a matter of interest.