It seems a bit early in the game for a Com Truise rarities and B-sides collection (Seth Haley has but one album under his belt with this punny moniker), but here we are. Listeners of his most prominent release, last year’s Galactic Melt, seemed to be left split, one side waiting for something to happen, and the other washing away in his heady electro-smashes. This same issue will split up audiences for In Decay, as most of the tracks fit together rather than differentiate. Fans will use this fact as a reason why his bleary, square-wave visions are so mesmerizing, and detractors will find more evidence of an all too redundant sound.
At times, In Decay feels like the sleepy brother to Tortoise’s newer material, with the added note that he’s been trapped exclusively in an era in which the only tools available were retro synths. These are often simple, looped melodies wrapped in insistent rhythms, hazy ephemera, and stylish flourishes, drama built in the repetition and slow morphing. The problem here, though, is that the shapeshifting doesn’t always provide that large of a difference in tone from the original iteration.
“Open” is the perfect introduction to the set as it swaggers in on chunky bass and glitchy electronics, while the washed-out island bleariness of “Alfa Beach” plays out like Haley’s gassed through beach level of Super Mario Kart enough times to capture that cross-eyed joy. That said, later tracks like the five-plus minutes of “Stop” merely see a few layers of synth added without much to latch onto. The chiming square-waves of “Smily Cyclops” similarly linger rather than fly, and “Video Arkade” lacks any of the intensity or glee that the title suggests. The hazy element of the album’s sound can tend to overrun everything else, softening the edges of feelings that could otherwise be crushingly powerful.
Calling a set of unreleased songs a rarities/demos collection this early in a musician’s career (particularly for a musician with a large Internet presence who releases material regularly) seems like a strange choice, as it sets the bar low. There may not be as many highs on In Decay as on Galactic Melt, but fans of Com Truise will find enough here to hold them over until that next LP.
Essential Tracks: “Open”