Retrowave comes in many different forms: at worst it can wholly prioritise surface-level aesthetic over compositional merit, serving as nothing more than an aural Instagram filter, but at best it can be extremely evocative, an inviting pool of 8-bit nostalgia. Com Truise is one of the best practitioners of the subgenre, and his fourth record for Ghostly International shows off his skills well.
While the songs on Persuasion System initially seem to be much of a muchness, moods and textures change subtly and effectively. The synth lead on Ultrafiche Of You is warm and poignant, but a slight change in reverb and pulsewidth makes the equivalent lead on Kontex much more acidic and uneasy. At times the tones seem unsure, ambivalent, reminiscent of the classic Boards Of Canada tracks that convey both innocence and a lurking darkness.
The rhythm tracks mostly conform to a pattern of slow tempos and rapid rhythms within those tempos, which leads to a clunky, stuttering sense of groove. The basslines are full and round, while the chord sequences that loop over and over and dominate so many of the songs range from doleful (Gaussian) to grand and triumphant (Existence Schematic, an album highlight). The few elements of the record that aren’t apparently created electronically – the piano lines that pop up across a few tracks, the watery guitar on closing track Departure – are sufficiently rare that they stand out each time they appear, fragments of a world before technology as we know it today.
This sort of music is not intended for close listening, relying as it does on repetition and vibe. It does, however, deliver the sound that Com Truise is known for in abundance, and delivers it with a nuance that’s a cut above the other YouTube wannabes.