On Ohms, Psych/Synth Duo Trees Speak Evokes '70's Era Minimalist Art/Punk Esthetic

Tucson Arizona-based minimalist synth, guitar and drum duo Trees Speak (with help from friends) released a limited to 100 edition white label 45 rpm single that quickly sold out. The story goes the action caught the attention of the U.K. based Soul Jazz Records label, which originally specialized in reggae, ska, dub and soul and later expanded its reach to include “world music”, mostly sourced from Africa and Brazil. More recently the label increased its reach to include electronica, which is probably how this duo’s full length album of minimalist, cinematic collages got a Soul Jazz release.

The jacket sticker says Trees Speak is for “fans of Cluster, Tangerine Dream, Can, Neu!, Silver Apples and early Kraftwerk”, but I think it both limiting and self-defeating to entice buyers with comparisons to other musicians and groups—especially since I hear as much if not more minimalist Wire, elements of Pink Floyd and “Twin Peaks” era Angelo Badalementi with, for good measure, some Eno thrown into the mix. Perhaps the fascination is that you will hear what you bring to the listening table.

The duo of Daniel Martin Diaz and Damian Diaz, who I assume are brothers assisted by Tucson-area guests, work with a lot of open space against which are tightly structured, slow moving, throbbing, menacing set pieces using in the foreground pounding insistent drums wallpapered with either analog synthesizers or “analog synthesizer-like” effects that at times draw scraping squiggles and dry-gulch “computer-fry” to produce often arid, desert-like pictures.

These are meticulously designed, cleanly plotted neo-psychedelic sci-fi sonic outings, not space-filling noodling, each producing in the listener the intended drama or dread. Lights out, write your own head-movie.

The record begins “heavy” with the Vangelis-like “Soul Sequencer” and never lightens up, more concerned with dynamics and atmospherics than with sophisticated musical composition or rap’s busy “cut and paste” sampled collages.

Minus a high quality recording, studio sets like this quickly lose traction. Fortunately, the Diaz duo paid attention to the sound. The drums in particular are well-recorded and the mastering at the late John Dent’s Loud Mastering (U.K.) is appropriately loud and somewhat “crushed” to give it “punch”, meaning you can turn this up loud and derive sonic benefits. The satisfyingly deep and well-controlled bottom end, the crystalline top and the bold, “in your face” center image add up to a fun “sound ride” that's been nicely pressed, I think somewhere in Europe.

With permission to digitize a track so you can hear for yourself whether or not it will be of interest, I had trouble choosing one, so I dropped the stylus towards the title tune’s end and then into all of “Out of View”.

Not for everyone but for some, and they know who they are! Includes a 7” 45, which I assume is the single that started all of this.

”Ohm”/”Out of View”

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ifthenwhy's picture

Sure, maybe this track is a bit too all over the place for my tastes, but anyone aping 70's era Eno is OK in my book.

otaku2's picture

Definitely a reason to have a system with a powered woofer. Thanks for a great recommendation.