I must confess: on first encountering Com Truise, I failed to recognize the Spoonerism in the band name, instead reading it as a play on “Come Trues.” Certainly we’re dealing here with dreams, but with those of the celluloid rather than the wish-fulfillment variety. And so, as I should have realized, the reference is in fact to a certain Scientologist of popular acquaintance. Are we dealing with the angry, angsty veteran of Born On The Fourth of July, the kinky doctor of Eyes Wide Shut, or even the shark-jumping couch-jumper of Oprah? Sadly, reader, the answer is that the Cruise we’re taken on here is a Cocktail party, but one in which Sex On the Beach is available only on VHS.
Before going any further, in the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal that Com Truise’s is a genre of music that holds a great deal of fascination and fondness for me: the retro charms of the 80s, synthesized bleeps and beats that sit somewhere between the arcade machine, the film soundtrack, and the Italo disco dancefloor. Here, though, while the ingredients are all present, like an ineptly-mixed Traffic Light there is a failure in coherence, such that we’re left with a jammy and overlong trajectory rather than a Quick Fuck. Or, to put it another way, Pac Man was broken, so we ended up with Frogger. The rhythms never quite approach the extended-form pop or dancefloor urgency of classic Italo disco or 89s synthpop, but neither do they edge close enough to ambience to produce an emerging mood in the manner of Emeralds. Certainly, there are individual pieces that, taken as such, hold austere synthetic pleasures — “Air Cal” is one, “Hyperlips” another — but elsewhere, while tracks often encompass elements of the soundtrack as mood music or as scene setting, the album fails to exploit this as a feature in itself. The second half does something to balk this overall trend — starting to explore the beauty rather than only the bleepiness of the synthesizer, and to play with a structure in a way that allows some resolution — but it’s not enough to save the work as a whole.
Where Com Truise’s lauded Cyanide Sisters EP had an internal logic and an onward-moving sensibility, driven in particular by synth-funky bass lines, Galactic Melt meanders aimlessly, failing to capitalize on the strengths of that piece, while sharing in its weaknesses: a quality of backgroundiness, and a nostalgia that is ultimately for its own sake, yet which despite this is not affectively nostalgic enough to invoke the emotional impact of, say, the best moments of chillwave. Meanwhile, there’s not enough conceptual depth or intellectual weirdness to sustain the interest inherent in other similarly-positioned retro-electronica projects — Ford & Lopatin, for example. Like their recent Channel Pressure, Galactic Melt is a concept album, lyriclessly narrating the tale of a cyborg astronaut on his journey to oneness with the universe — all very Freud via Haraway, though you’d never know it. While contemporary genre fusion can go (waaaay) too far, sometimes its absence demonstrates just what that approach has been able to bring to music in the postmodern era. Meanwhile, though there seems to be a vogue at present to deny that prolific output necessarily equates to lower quality, given that this LP appears only five short months after the debut, one can’t help but speculate on the relationship.
Ultimately, Galactic Melt is like a good bartender: approachable without being overbearing, reminding you of past buddies while keeping a slight but not uncomfortable distance… and fading into context, so that when you wake up the next day there’s nothing more than a pleasant gap in your memory.
02. VHS Sex
03. Cathode Girls
04. Air Cal
09. Ether Drift