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It was 2011's 'Galactic Melt' that really opened my eyes to the neon synthwave streaks and pulsing bass throbs of Seth Haley's Com Truise productions. Like a simmering mix of 80's Italo, and the more modern soundtrack emulations of Pye Corner Audio, Xander Harris, Panabrite etc. Fast forward 6 years,  during which there have been one studio album and 2 EP's and we get the majestic 'Iteration'. 

Kicking things off with the dystopian shimmer of '...Of Your Fake Dimension' , led with a downtuned oscillator stack and skittering noisy hats, it sets the pace nicely without giving too much away, acting as an amuse oreille for the glowing journey that is to come.  'Ephemeron' takes things into another gear altogether, despite the reticence of the opening passage, things quickly build into a cacophony of echoing Linn drums and richoteing saw waves, underpinned by an ever-reliable machinated hi-hat flutter. 'Dryswch' weaves simmering pads together before leaping into a brutally fragmented bassline, twisting and turning around the solid foundation of hi-passed kicks (it is unusual for the drum parts to sit so high in the frequency spectrum, with most of the bass 'heavy lifting' often accomplished here by the bass guitar, the drums sitting in the low mids perfectly accentuating the throbbing churn of analogue oscillators). 

Move a little further along and 'Propagation' gives us the first truly anthemic taste of an Italo summer stormer, with corused pads and sidechained chords giving way quickly to a glitched-out two-part discussion between pummeling staccato bass and FM synth stabs before breaking down once again into glassine chorused keys and 16th note clattering percussion. It's a formula that is tried and tested, but injected with the off-kilter production quirks so recognisable as Haley (automated distorted fragments and stuttering filtered degradation being a big part of his sound), leaving the listener conforted but fascinated in equal measure. 

It is a stunning collection, supremely memorable, and warmly dynamic. There are moments of serene beauty and melancholic anthems, equally at home on the dancefloor as played at home for a gathering with friends. If they don't like it, get new friends. 

STAFF COMMENTS

Barry says: I always knew I liked Com Truise, there was just something that resonated with me (no pun intended), but never has it had as much of a pull as 'Iteration'. Stripped back into the constituent parts that made CT's music so enthralling without the sometimes distracting frenetic background makes this an unrivalled modern synth classic.

It was the end of 2013 and Jannis Noya Makrigiannis, the frontman and principal persona behind Choir of Young Believers, was worn out. He’d been touring the band’s last record the haunting Rhine Gold, for the better part of a year and, when it was over, he felt confused, adrift and didn’t feel like playing music. He was doubting the future of the band. The way he coped was to detach. He postponed writing in favor of traveling, deciding that instead of diving back into the creation of another record, he would allow himself to move in whatever direction he desired. His impulses guided his decisions; he wasn’t feeling very inspired by the guitar or the piano, so he started to fiddle around with a small pocket sampler his mother got him for Christmas, using it to make small soundscapes, beats and collages. Those early experiments became the building blocks for Grasque, from the warped, weird choral vocals that open “Serious Lover” to breezey, breathy R&B of “Jeg Ser Dig,” on which he sounds like a Scandinavian Sade.

The record pulls in a host of unlikely influences: smoky jazz on the noirish “The Whirlpool Enigma” twinkling pop on “Gamma Moth” and sun-bathed soul on “Cloud Nine.” It’s not so much a reinvention as a redirection, maintaining all of the group’s essential elements but setting them within a new context. Much of that is because, when Makrigiannis started the project, it wasn’t meant to be a new COYB record. Having been inspired by everything from experimental electronic music to Danish ‘80s and ‘90s pop, to modern hip-hop and R&B to techno and westcoast slow jams, he’d made a new, imaginary band in his head called Grasque to reflect those influences. He quickly recorded both “Græske” and “Face Melting” with Aske Zidore, who had also produced Rhine Gold, and when Choir of Young Believers reconvened to tour with Depeche Mode, he wrote a few guitar-based songs to play live. Gradually, he realized all of his new ideas and music could melt together with Choir of Young Believers. A couple of months later, he and Aske went to a small Swedish farm for a week and came back with more than 10 hours of new music.

The result is an album that is confident and expansive, incorporating an encyclopedia of styles while still maintaining the essential elements of Choir of Young Believers’ DNA. It’s pop music, put through a kaleidoscopic filter. “I must admit, one of the things I worried about was ‘What will people think?’” Makrigiannis says. “With almost all ofthese songs, I had been in doubt. Some, I felt, were too poppy, others too experimental some didn’t even feel like songs, but more like trips, or feelings. Some even had Danish and Greek lyrics. But now, it’s all Choir of Young Believers to me, and it feels great to have pushed the walls around the band, giving it a bit more space. It’s weird for me to think about all that doubt ”Could I do this? Could I do that? I mean, it’s my fucking band. I can do what I want with it. Right?”

Tobacco

Ultima II Massage

On his third album, the Pennsylvania snake-synth-charmer deepens his approach to aural depravity. 'Ultima II Massage' widens a jagged swath through the dude’s own weird catalogue, each disparate track damaged to the point of contributing to some sort of greater, lurching Frankenstein-like state. Immediately after finishing 2010’s 'Maniac Meat', he went to work on the beat-addled series begun with 'Fucked Up Friends' in 2008. But he's saved the worst for last, amassing the most misanthropic material for 'Ultima'. To wit, SPIN dubbed early share “Lipstick Destroyer” a “junkyard takedown of Daft Punk’s beloved, pristine electro.”

This is easily Tobacco’s most diverse set to date - his own Stereopathetic Soulmanure, but about that 1-900 hotline life: massage parlors, plasticized sleaze, fake tans, old dial-ups to the fan clubs of dead B-actors. Fittingly, the album’s only contributor is music director Brian LeBarton who shrieks as Notrabel on the grimy freak-out “Streaker.” At 17 tracks, Ultima is stacked with beautifully perverse hits - from the sickly sticky “Eruption,” to the wobbly demon swaggerer “Face Breakout,” to the distorted punk spazz of “Dipsmack,” to the apocalyptic sepia ambience of “Spitlord.” You may hear disembodied bits of Boards of Canada, early Def Jam records, and Gary Numan, or maybe just public-access TV and bad VHS dubs of ‘80s horror flicks. Or the sun exploding and everything you’ve ever loved melting. Again, Tobacco was just trying to make meditation music.

But to find that rotted sweet spot, as always, he had to subvert his pop urges. Tobacco went back to the cassette decks he started off with - analog weapons of distortion to compliment his hissing vocoder and blown rhythms. Any moment that felt “just right” was brutally assaulted until ugly again. All to accomplish one end: “This might be my most purposely difficult album yet, but I promise if you let it in, it can fuck you up.”


When Randolph Chabot, the 22-year-old auteur behind Deastro, is asked about the title of his new album, he recounts a dream about a prince, a kingdom, an evil King of Darkness, and a search for the mythical "Moondagger", the bearer of which wields ultimate power. While "Moondagger", Deastro's new new album, does contain traces of that dream, the record itself is infinitely more down-to-earth, containing the sort of unrelentingly earnest, inspirational pop music that could only come from a kid weaned on fiction but living desperately, joyously in the here-and-now. "Moondagger" expands upon the positive electro-pop of "Keepers" - Deastro's home-recorded opus from 2008 - with the addition of a full band. Thick, atmospheric production obscures bright, starry-eyed melodies; ecstatic synth squiggles dance around new-wave beats on songs about Nordics, toxic crusaders, and geometric shapes; arrangement ideas bounce off one another within ambitious song structures that swerve left, then right, then left again. And yet underneath all of their seeming irreverence, Deastro's songs are breathtakingly down-to-earth—melodic slices of synth-led experimental pop whose energy builds with each iteration of the chorus, hitting emotional peak after emotional peak until they collapse in a heap.


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