It’s been a long time since we’ve heard from Dallas-based Tree Wave, another pioneer of the “chiptunes”/”micromusic” movement. But while other acts (such as 8 Bit Weapon) have carved their own path through that genre, Tree Wave was always different and decidedly more analog: dot matrix printers, among other things, were specially programmed and miked up as instruments in and of themselves. Tree Wave has also never limited itself solely to computer hardware; ethereal distorted guitars have always been a part of the duo’s soundscape.
Almost by accident, I discovered that Tree Wave released a new mini-EP (or as Paul Slocum calls it, a “virtual 10-inch”, referring to the size of a “maxi-single” on vinyl but almost certainly milking the double entendre for whatever it’s worth) in August. Consisting of four songs, Virtual 10-Inch shows an evolution in Tree Wave’s sound. If anything, that sound has morphed into prog-rock-with-computer-hardware.
The good news is that Tree Wave’s tendency toward warm, weird, wide-open chords hasn’t changed. In places, though, Virtual 10-Inch serves notice that, if the sound wasn’t necessarily constrained to old electronics before, it’s even less so now; there are moments where Tree Wave’s signature computer sounds are drenched with a dreamy multi-tracked wash of distorted guitars – or at least computer audio run through a distortion pedal (a trick Slocum has been known to employ).
“onewordb” and “plentyc” are the two tracks that will seem most familiar to fans of Tree Wave’s previous work; “onewordb” is unusual in that it introduces a male vocal (presumably Slocum), which features in the other songs as well; vocalist Lauren Gray doesn’t appear until the second track, “realaudio8”, which is part of the more decidedly abstract half of Virtual 10-Inch. She takes the lead on “plentyc”, and the final track, “time29”, closes things out on an experimental note again.
It’s been too long since we’ve heard anything out of Tree Wave (they’ve been touring steadily since 2003, though), and hopefully Virtual 10-Inch is a sign that they’re working on more new material. This pint-sized collection – less than 15 minutes to hear the whole thing – may not be for everyone, but it’s an intriguing sound that’s carving out its own swath. It may be micromusic, but it doesn’t “sound like an old video game” by a long shot…and I like that.
Virtual 10-Inch is available as a free download from Tree Wave’s web site (see link below).
- onewordb (2:50)
- realaudio8 (3:36)
- plentyc (2:36)
- time29 (3:10)
Released by: Tree Wave
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 12:12