June 29, 2004

Tree Wave "Cabana EP"

There's a certain level of novelty to be found within the works of an innovator. After all, if you are one of the talented few who have the power to be innovative, it is to be expected that your changes or your approaches to the traditional way of doing things are novel. Sometimes, in the case of bands like Nirvana or Weezer, your challenge to the status quo is simply inherent within what you do, and it's not something that you're aware of, nor is it something you can really adjust. You can't exactly say, 'We're going to innovate simply by playing basic rock music' and be taken seriously.

The other side of the coin, however, is doing something so utterly original that you wind up being a novelty act. You do things like, say, put on robes and hire a choir and a brass section. You have no rules to follow because there are no rules for you to follow. Are you going to fall flat on your face? Go to any used record store and look in the discount section, and you'll find that the road to Rock is paved with records made with good intentions. For every Polyphonic Spree, there's a Buffalo Daughter or any number of bands who wound up damning themselves by their originality.

And then there's Tree Wave.

This Dallas band has impressed a helluva lot of people, and rightly so. The concept is this: Paul Slocum, computer nerd, Atari freak and C64 purist, decided to make a record that uses these computers to make his music. He wanted to make electronic music, and he wanted to do so with very little reliance on traditions 'instruments'. Computers are the new guitars, and so he set about making wonderful layers of computer-based instrumentals and noise.Thus, you've got a record made with a 2600, C64, Soundblaster, Casio and a dot matrix printer! He then decided that he wanted to make them even better, so he had his wife Lauren Gray add her dreamy voice to the mix.

And it was good.

The result of this experimentation is Cabana EP +. Originally posted online, this four-song EP wowed a lot of people--myself included--and because of heavy traffic had to be removed. The official version of the EP has been expanded to include two new songs, two videos and a program for your Commodore 64! The results are, of course, quite heavenly. If you've been looking for the missing link that connects Flowchart with My Bloody Valentine and Stereolab and Godzuki, then Tree Wave's certainly provided it. Luckily, though, Tree Wave stand out among the rest, and they could easily kick the ass of any record released on Morr, Darla and the entire catalog of Tonevendor. (We love all three of those establishments, by the way.)

The music on Cabana EP + is very basic, sticking to the computerized dance music meets shoegaze blisspop meets something that's new wave but not really meets something that can only be called Tree Wave and that it does so quite effortlessly betrays not Slocum's love for computers. Gray's singing only enhances the ideas, making the results sound both quite familiar and totally unique. From the dance beats of "Morning Coffee Hymn" and the driving rhythm of "Same" and "Instrumental 1B," Tree Wave throws down a groove that will move both your mind and your feet. The videos are excellent, and though I can't access the C64 track (sorry, Paul), I'm sure it's awesome. Then again, anyone who can turn a poem by Rimbaud into a new wave dance number automatically earns the 'awesome' tag in my book.

The novelty of how Tree Wave makes their music will draw you to Cabana EP +, and the music will keep you coming back. This is, quite easily, one of the most impressive debuts of the year from a band whose concept is one that has yet to be topped. People, if you're fed up with the blandness of today's indie music (and I don't blame you one bit), seek this out and prepared to have your mind blown.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.treewave.com

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