Persuasion System is ostensibly a project rooted in change. You know how the saying goes, though, and this “mini-LP”, as it is being marketed, manages to pull up just short of staying the same.
Having finished up his series of releases based on the exploits of a fictional astronaut named Com Truise, Com Truise the artist decided to overhaul his equipment and embrace the mixed emotions that come with endings and new beginnings. Also, the rapidly-changing state of the world, in general, affected his work. The resulting Persuasion System, in the form of nine tracks and just over half an hour, is unmistakably recognizable as Com Truise. The tracks are all based on analog synthesizer sounds. Many of them, such as the glassy leads and alternately surging and stabbing basslines, are familiar.
But there is something different about Persuasion System, however subtle. A majority of the tracks have a reflective, almost mournful feel. “Worldline” starts off the album with what sounds like an echoing, chiming clock. Spectral synths come in, and there is a woman’s voice in the background, but the track ends before you can tell what she is saying. It leaves the impression that, if Persuasion System has a theme, it’s the confounding paradox of a planet that is simultaneously more connected than ever and yet fractured in so many ways. Yes, it’s a bit heady, and Truise expresses it without any words at all, but for the most part, he handles it well. This is not an album that suffocates with its message.
The other short, interlude-type tracks are, if anything, even more striking. “Gaussian” is made of solemn synth pads set against crashing waves, until it’s all interrupted by an explosion/meltdown. It very much recalls vintage OMD at their saddest, and prettiest. At the far end of the album, “Departure” takes similar synth tones and adds treated, New Order-style bass notes. These songs are “retro” in a way Com Truise really has not been before. It is safe to say he has not been this affecting before, either.
Persuasion System is not all navel-gazing moodiness, though. The sprightly single “Existence Schematic”, with its bright major chords and drum machine pops, is almost Prince-like. Likewise, the stuttering rhythm and bleeping of “Kontex” sounds like it could have come from the same sessions as Truise’s last album, the excellent Iteration. “Ultrafiche of You” is a self-described “love song”, and it is interesting to hear exactly what Truise means by that. The lax rhythm, head-in-the-clouds synths, and playful squiggles suggest something multifaceted and euphoric.
Many EPs or mini-albums are the equivalent of the “bonus features” on a video disc: They are a sometimes entertaining, occasionally insightful hodgepodge, and often they aren’t worth coming back to. There’s no question that Persuasion System goes beyond those parameters. It is a cohesive, self-contained work, and rewards repeated listening. If it’s not a bold reinvention, there’s a strong argument that such a thing wasn’t necessary anyway.