Seth Haley is, for better or worse, Com Truise, a joke that, if it appeals to you at all, does so earnestly with your video game geek side or oh so ironically with the downtown club kid in you. Which is a useful dialectic, as it is ultimately the evaluative crux for Galactic Melt. Haley tows the line between soundtrack and banger throughout, exposing the similarities between the two but also the pitfalls that come with catering to a particular demographic.
Full disclosure: I fall firmly into the geek camp. What that ultimately means is that Com Truise is at its most appealing when amorphous, ambient and passive. Intro “Terminal,” for example, is a throwaway from a song perspective. But in terms of orientating the program that follows and signaling its introductory status, the lift-off synthesizer runs do exactly what they should do: announce “The Beginning.” To bring it back to the language of, say, a good role-playing game, it’s that moment right after character creation and right before you plunge in media res into the big conflict.
Even more classic song structures do a good job of scratching the nerd itch, and in some cases bridge the gap between the 1980s new wave loner type and the diehard Final Fantasy enthusiast. “VHS Sex” does the triple duty of carrying narrative components, generating atmospherics, and paying homage to the most bristling electronic moments on “Bizarre Love Triangle.” It’s overstimulating, in the most literal sense.
It also is the most blatant grab at the club set, almost fatally undermining the production for the sake of two stupid words: “VHS sex.” Com Truise’s eponymous spoonerism was enough of a tip-off that the language game isn’t really Haley’s thing, but the attempt at forcibly injecting some semblance of edginess into the proceedings is a major misstep. I can’t imagine he scores any real cool points, and he also blunts the impact that the rest of the song has for those who are actually listening. The worst part is that this mistake happens twice more, on two more of the most compelling songs: “Cathode Girls” and “Hyperlips.” Just the implication of sexuality is enough to knock the whole affair off-course.
Such gripes about the effect that song titles and lyrical content have over the perception of Com Truise songs can be easily dismissed. After all, if you approached them with no knowledge of what they were called, or what was being said, these issues wouldn’t exist. The problem is we do know, and the context does matter. When it comes down to it, the video game geek vs. club kid binary is really about whether this is the kind of music that was made to be listened to alone in your bedroom, or out in public as a statement. In the first case, there is a sense that Com Truise not only cares about you, but about the music itself. It’s encouragement that, if you invest, and look deeper, you will be rewarded. In the second case, though, the deft maneuvering through a crowded electronic scene is reduced to mere posturing. The sounds may be the same, but the resonant force is reduced to zero.
Perhaps this is too much of a skeptic’s point of view, or perhaps it reads much too far into the artist’s intentions in the first place. Only time can tell. But even after this whole debate, I remain optimistic, in no small part because of “Ether Drift,” the second to last song on Galactic Melt. It makes me forget about any of these issues at all. The whole synthetic engine is perfectly in sync, the blueprint immaculate, and the ping-pong bleep-bloops working together to transcend the debate. It’s the kind of song that asks you to shut up and listen. And after an album’s worth of agonizing scrutiny, you oblige.
By Evan Hanlon