Trees Speak are Daniel Martin Diaz and Damian Diaz from Tucson, Arizona, and their music often draws on the cosmic night-time magic of Arizona’s natural desert landscapes.” So says their official website. Fair enough. But it can’t be denied that plenty of classic European influences have found their way into their sound as well. Anyone familiar with even the slightest bits of krautrock will hear that sound all over their work, particularly their latest album, PostHuman.
Diaz and Diaz fully immerse themselves in the hypnotic style that formed the sound of classic bands like Can, Popol Vuh, and Neu!, but they tweak that genre just enough to make it sound unique and refreshing. First of all, the 16 songs on PostHuman all clock in at under four minutes. There are no side-long suites or marathon jams. The sound comes at you in snippets. Sure, the songs all segue seamlessly into each other, but the bite-size tracks are devised, so each song works as a self-contained track and part of a larger work. And while the album’s first two tracks, “Double Slit” and “Glass”, are right out of Teutonic Rock 101 – complete with propulsive riffing and maddeningly narcotic, lock-step beats – it isn’t long before Diaz and Diaz are experimenting beyond the genre.
For example, “Chamber of Frequencies” is accented by squealing saxophone over pulsating keyboards, with a creepy aesthetic reminiscent of John Carpenter film scores. The vibraphone and stuttering, shuffling drums of “Divided Light” are more spooky jazz than motorik vibes. Likewise, the main sonic element of “Magic Transistor” is a Mellotron-like melody that seems cribbed from Giorgio Moroder’s Midnight Express score. There’s an odd warmth to the track, even if it sounds like the listener is calmly led down a foreboding path. Even the odd, interlude-like track “Synthesis” – which packs field recordings and creepy percussion into 45 seconds – has more cinematic ambience that lesser instrumental groups can pack into an entire album.
While there’s nothing particularly conventional about a track like “Quantize Humanize”, the treated, alien-like vocalizing is masked by the warm, AM radio shuffle of the easygoing beat and engaging melodies. This sort of juxtaposition allows Trees Speak to combine odd, diverse approaches to their compositions in such a way that they’ve almost invented a new genre. There are elements of sci-fi, prog rock, krautrock, the Italian film scores of Goblin – and the genre lines get so blurred there’s a sense that you’ve heard it all before but never in this particular combination.
PostHuman – which is housed in brilliant, retro artwork that seems perfectly suited to the LP gatefold format – also comes with a 7” single that contains “Hidden Machine”, another slice of spacey, futuristic jazz, and “Machine Vision”, a mix of Tangerine Dream-inspired synths and more of those driving, krautrock beats. Trees Speak are a band that wear their influences on their sleeves. But their list of influences is so long that it never feels derivative or repetitious. Those Arizona deserts contain plenty of inspiration; hopefully, there’s much more of it to come.