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Science-fiction films and electronic music had their first make-out session in 1956. That year marked the arrival of Forbidden Planet, a sci-fi flick that happened to sport an all-electronic score. Since then, electronic music has augmented heaps of the genre's movies, including 1971's The Andromeda Strain and 1982's Blade Runner. In 2010, Daft Punk scored Tron: Legacy; next year, M83 will provide the soundtrack to the Tom Cruise thriller Oblivion.
Ghostly International's 2011 release of Com Truise's Galactic Melt marked a logical lateral step in that cross-pollination of media and themes. Under his self-avowed "mid-fi, synth-wave, slow-motion funk" alias of Com, producer Seth Haley visualized a movie—one that's still unfilmed—and then penned its score. "For the most part, it was good to have a story to go with [the music] because it's keeping me focused for the future," says the Princeton, New Jersey-based 27-year-old who is a devout sci-fi acolyte himself. (In a 2011 interview, Haley claimed to watch Blade Runner once a week.) "The story made me create my own guidelines for where I want to go."
Galactic Melt's plot is roughly sketched and close to impossible for an unsuspecting listener to pick up on (Com Truise is heavy on the instrumentals), but the album does have a premise. It follows the first synthetic astronaut (i.e., an android) making his inaugural journey into space. Colorful, technobabble-like track titles such as "VHS Sex," "Flightwave," "Hyperlips" and "Futureworld" may help you to connect a little more to your own constellations. Opener "Terminal" emulates the feel of entering and starting a spaceship up—"how the technology would look, what the buttons would look like, what sounds [the ship] would make when you press the buttons"—and "Cathode Girls" is about the astronaut communicating with his Earth-bound girlfriend through the television.
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In sonic and visual means, Galactic Melt is as undoubtedly in debt to the 1980s as it is to sci-fi. Vintage synthesizers, drum machines and keyboards abound (Haley uses modern tools when necessary, but you'd be hard-pressed to pinpoint those moments), and its sparkly, loopy sound could pass for Kraftwerk, Brian Eno or a progressive rock band obsessing with the future from their decade's vantage point. The album's abstract cover art feels fundamentally '80s, too, with its thin lines and minimalist pastel palette. Haley, who comes from an advertising background, designs all of Com's graphics himself, aiming to translate sounds into pictures. "I find my music to be simple—not too complex. It's a little bit sloppy, but to me, it sounds very geometric," he says.
Astonishingly, all this comes from someone who once considered himself "anti-'80s, for the most part." Haley's infatuation with electronica is rooted in the late 1990s with the Chemical Brothers' Dig Your Own Hole and drum and bass. Since getting serious about this style, he has created a lot of music under a lot of names—among others, Sarin Sunday, Airliner and SYSTM—but never cared for '80s aesthetics until having an epiphany in late 2009. (He started working as Com Truise shortly thereafter.)
This past July, Ghostly issued In Decay, a collection of odds and ends from Com Truise's early days, but those songs don't follow the sci-fi storyline cultivated on Galactic Melt—and that has become a vital priority for Haley. "I definitely have the stepping stones for the next release," he says of his forthcoming EP, "and then I'll have to formulate where else this android will go."
This article appeared in print as "Days of Future Past: Synth-wave daydreamer Com Truise explores the '80s and beyond."