Tree Wave - Cabana EP + (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Tree Wave

Cabana EP + (2004)

Made Up

Musicians use a lot of odd instruments on their albums. Xylophones, kazoos, and even the famed cowbell have found their way into a few recordings over the years. In some cases, it serves as nothing more than a novelty, but in others, it can add a good accent to the music. Well, this creates a bit of an odd situation with Tree Wave's Cabana EP +, in which an Atari 2600, Commodore 64, and Dot Matrix printer all find their way into the musical fold. It's unorthodox for sure, but strangely compelling at the same time, making for some interesting musical arrangements.

If I were to pin this for an actual genre, synth-pop would probably be the label most easily applied, as it's not all quirky noises; there are some underlying guitar rhythms, and singer Lauren Gray provides the light, dreamy vocals. "May Banners" twinkles throughout all of its 4 minutes, while Gray effortlessly sings above the low, droning guitar and the work of the thumb piano that is as James Lipton would describe it, "scrumtrulescent." This is very unfortunately the only appearance on the EP of the thumb piano, but I suppose using it much more would be overkill. "Sleep" options some overly distorted basslines, as well as some beats that would not feel out of place playing Megaman IV. The vocals are left to a minimum, letting the bass and electronic ambience finish off the song.

"Instrumental 1b" lets a slow, beautiful melody hover just under the electronic sounds of the Atari, and I don't quite know if I find the juxtaposition to be more beautiful, or more unnecessary than anything else. It certainly takes some adjustments to fully take everything in as it was intended. The one juxtaposition (I just wanted to use that word twice) that never does sound out of place, is Gray's voice among the electro-pop noises throughout all of this. In a feat not accomplished by many of her contemporaries, Gray never sounds out of place among the subtle beeps and blips. "Morning Coffee Hymn" starts out with a snappy, repetitious electronic snippet, while building the melody slowly in the background.

The last track, "Commodore 64 Data Track," is supposed to be just that, a data track, so it comes with the warning "DO NOT LISTEN" below the song name on the back. The song carries a nice, upbeat melody amidst waves of fuzz and reverb, until getting towards the end of the track where the reverb really picks up, then clears the way for the kind of noises you hear during the emergency broadcast tests on TV. A bit unnecessary, maybe; they could have closed the EP in a better fashion.

All in all, a good effort from Tree Wave, and with each repeated listen you start to pick up more subtle nuances that you may have missed on the first or second try. Who'd have thought that over 20 years later, there would still be uses for an Atari? Though it's Lauren Gray's voice that pulls everything together, the package is still a tight one. If nothing else, it comes with James Lipton's seal of approval, which, let's face it, should mean more to you than my opinion.