"Sleep" · Tree Wave
from Cabana EP
Tree Wave [Dallas, Texas] is the brainchild of artist/programmer Paul Slocum. If you know anything about this project you probably know some combination of the following:
1. “zomg, female vocalist!1!!" (<—the perfectly cast Lauren Gray)
2. “he’s making music with a dot-matrix printer!”
3. “they’re the My Bloody Valentine of Chip!”
And while it’s easier to sell most people on Tree Wave with these superficial observations, the appeal, for me, goes a little bit deeper. Paul is my favorite kind of Chipmusician — one who a) probably wouldn’t refer to himself as such and b) treats his platforms as instruments instead of gimmicks. You can hear it in the music. I mean, what Atari or Commodore 64 game sounds like this? Not too many, I’d wager. And yet, there he is, using those very consoles on stage.
There’s a much longer discussion to be had here but I’m pretty short on time this week thanks to some major work deadlines. If I had to sum it up as concisely as possible given the time currently available to me, I’d say this: Just because something is written on a gaming platform or is meant to sound as though it was (via software/plug-ins) doesn’t automatically devalue or segregate it from “real” music. There are some great musicians out there who have simply chosen these tools as their means of expression. Chipmusic, strange as this may sound, should be both remarkable and unremarkable at the same time. Remarkable in the same way that we are amazed by what a cellist can accomplish with a bow and some strings and Unremarkable in the sense that we don’t dissect and analyze their choice to use a cello.
In an ideal world, I would love to go to a concert where there’s just one performer on the lineup (out of two or three others) that’s playing Chipmusic and no one in the audience is giving his or her NES a second look and the words “Mario” and “rave” never enter the post-show discourse. If Tree Wave (and other projects like it) keep doing what they’re doing, I believe we can get closer to realizing that ideal. Maybe there will even be a day when I can (happily) dissolve this blog because the concept of lumping all these tracks together as one genre is no longer relevant. Until then, I’ll keep sharing the songs that got me to focus on the music instead of the method.
Also, you should really consider purchasing this album. “Sleep” and “May Banners" are publicly available as free downloads and I had a really tough time choosing which song to feature at the top of this post. In other words: everything they do is great. I leave you with this video of Paul performing "May Banners" at Blip Festival 2007 (without Lauren, sadly). I didn’t know this at first but the lyrics are a tweaked version of the English translation to Rimbaud’s 1872 poem, “Bannières de Mai”