The new Com Truise album, Iteration, due out June 16, marks the conclusion of a loosely science-fiction-themed trilogy that began with the project's 2011 debut, Galactic Melt. Without lyrics, the themes may not be as obvious, but song titles like “Ether Drift,” “Dreambender” and “Ephemeron” conjure visions of a retro-futurist aesthetic embodied by films like Blade Runner and the more recent Beyond the Black Rainbow.
Seth Haley, the sole member of Com Truise, grew up watching science-fiction movies and says it is part of his identity.
“I'm really inspired by the graphics, the user interfaces on the computers inside the movies, and details like that,” says Haley. “That someone had to dream up this entire world in their head because it didn't have any connection to our own – how ships work, language on signs – blows my mind.”
These visual details inform Com Truise releases, giving them a coherence and structure they might not otherwise have.
Haley got his start in music as a youth DJ in upstate New York. By the time he was in middle school, MTV was broadcasting videos by some of the most adventurous and accessible electronic acts of the era, like the Prodigy, Aphex Twin and the Chemical Brothers. Haley dug deeper into the genre and became interested in drum-and-bass, which made his tastes very different from that of his immediate peers, who preferred jam bands.
In his enthusiasm for drum-and-bass, Haley connected with like-minded people through the file-sharing program Soulseek. In the forums there, he discovered a community of other electronic-music enthusiasts in Philadelphia, where there were clubs that played drum-and-bass live. He also came into contact with drum-and-bass artist Mesck, who had an early Internet radio station. He invited Haley to DJ his own radio show. Haley agreed, and produced it out of his bedroom, playing his own mixes. From there, Haley deejayed for several years, but in the end, it didn't fully satisfy his creative needs: “You play someone else's tunes for so long, and then you think, maybe I'll make my own stuff to deejay.”
At first, creating his own compositions was just a hobby. During those years, Haley discovered what gear he needed to make the music he heard in the Alien trilogy, Blade Runner, Tangerine Dream's score for Risky Business and Popol Vuh's iconic soundtrack for Werner Herzog's Aguirre the Wrath of God.
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“[I figured all of that out by mainly] going to the record shop and digging for old records — funk stuff and ’80s stuff in general,” says Haley. “Back then in the liner notes, they used to put the instruments used, and sometimes they would be specific about the synthesizers and drum machines and things like that. So I started to learn which sounds came from what, and I could specifically target an instrument I was trying to acquire. When I really got into synthesizers, it was right before the big boom of everyone trying to buy them up. A lot of that information is available now. But I feel that when I first started writing this style of music, it was very hard to find out without going to the record store. I'd maybe watch old music videos and pause on the keyboard shot and try to guess what it was.”
These days, Haley has narrowed down his gear for making records and playing shows to give songs and albums a specific set of parameters and their own character. In that way, he has perhaps manifested in his own music the kind of world-specific technologies he's seen in his favorite science-fiction films. Doing his own artwork for the albums – inspired in part by graphic designers like Herb Lubalin and the images shared on the Flashback pool Flickr account – Haley clearly has a talent for crafting a unified aesthetic, which he has not yet had the chance to bring to filmmaking.
“Touring is great, but I would really like to score films and produce,” he says. “It seems like a tricky world to break into, and you have to find someone to give you a chance. I haven't chased it too hard, either, and no one has yet said I need this sound and this is the guy to do it.”
Com Truise with Clark, 7 p.m., Sunday, May 14, Bluebird Theater, 303-377-1666, $20-23, 16+.