What is…. Synthwave?
Com Truise is a man of few words. I noticed this last time I saw him at The Exchange back in 2017. It’s all about the aesthetic and theme, and he lets it do the talking. The theme, in this case, is synthwave. It’s a distinct type of electronic music that is inspired by the 80s.
Imagine shades of deep blue and pink, matched up with the fuzzy visuals of an old tube TV. Then imagine that classic buzzy synth sound. You now are watching the movie Drive. I kid, but that’s partially the vibe that is trying to be achieved here. However, Com Truise goes for his own unique take on the genre.
What I see is a bit of a darker take on the memories of the 1980s. The show’s visuals were done entirely on a projector. Video game-like patterns adored the screen, things like raining pills, a video of a deadpan woman going through the motions of her boring life, the phrases like VHS SEX and a little dash of the existential were all present throughout the set.
However, the music stayed mostly bright and upbeat. It’s a representation of the overall haze of the 80s. The drugs, the parties devoid of real substance, the primitive retro-futuristic technology and the new experimental ways of producing are all present. The 80s were a strange time, and Com Truise captures that well in his presentation.
The Very Different Take on Electronic Music
The show started with two electronic artists, ginla and Jack Grace. Ginla’s set featured soft electronic pop music punctuated by quick drum n bass like rhythms. The two styles are tricky to combine, but ginla pulled it off, creating out a unique sound. It reminds me of a few old favorite songs with quick-but-soft drumming accompanied by soft vocals [Echo – Incubus] and [Don’t Haunt This Place – The Rural Alberta Advantage].
Next up was Jack Grace. He took the tempo down quite a bit. Gone were the fast-paced beats of the drums, replaced by oscillating tones and high falsetto singing. It was a very experimental sound that could be compared to James Blake. The melancholy sound was a stark contrast to both the soft electronic pop sound of ginla and the synthwave of Com Truise. These three artists were electronic artists, but clearly occupied different hemispheres when came to their production. It was quite the hodgepodge.
How is Synthwave?
After a brief intermission, Com Truise took the stage and started immediately into his set. The sounds of synths bounced around the room, and you could feel the vibrations of the subwoofer in your chest. Perhaps it was a bit too powerful, because I found myself struggling to hear the trebles of the music.
However, beyond that, the music was highly entertaining. The crowd up front was enthralled by it. I was surprised at some of the dancing going on to synth beats that were on the slower end of things.
As I mentioned earlier, the visuals were fascinating. They were abstract references to the party culture and technology to the 80s. I caught myself thinking that a lot of the visuals would make great T-shirt designs and, funny enough, I’m pretty sure they were available at the merch table. My only complaint is that at times the projector was either too dim or the stage lights were too bright to make out what was on the screen.
Overall, it was another fun show by Com Truise, and this time it brought a packed house! His last appearance was 12:30 am on a Wednesday and unfortunately didn’t bring quite the crowd like this one. Com Truise is probably one of the most recognizable acts in the synthwave genre, and if you’re into it, this was a great show. It’s rare for synthwave acts to come through town.