ArtLung

September 22nd, 2007

I mentioned yesterday in a comment in response to a comment my old friend Erin made, wherein she mentions she heard Christina Aguilera and thought of me. Yes, I was so into Christina several years ago that a certain number of people now associate me with her. I’m not listening to that much Christina Aguilera these days.

In my reply I mentioned a band called “Tree Wave,” whose website is located at http://www.treewave.com/ . They stimulate my brain cells and heart in a way that is rather hard to describe.

I first heard them in the BBS Documentary, where their music is part of the opening credits of some of the pieces. You can read about all the music on that excellent documentary on the BBS Documentary Production: The Music page. You can also download the “Cigarettes and Coffee Introduction” and “Morning Coffee Hymm” on that site.

I never really blogged about the documentary, though I did mention it when Leah interviewed Jason Scott (who directed the documentary). In my email, I did post to the Web405 mailing list this:

I have no idea whether this has been talked about here, but I just got in the mail “BBS: The Documentary” – a 3 DVD set documentary about the
history of BBS’s.

I am filled with nostalgia and wonder. I’ve had it on while working for maybe 20 minutes and I love it. Highest possible recommendation.

http://www.bbsdocumentary.com/

– Joe

I wrote that after having watched 20 minutes of the thing. And it only got better. Part of that was the pitch-perfect music that matched the tone and content of the documentaries perfectly. Tree Wave (or is it Treewave?) makes music using antiquated electronic computers. Now, I didn’t know this at the time, and I had no idea there was more than just a few soundtrack pieces from this band.

No, it was while listening to a SXSW recording of a great panel called “Game Perverts” — about people hacking games to do things their creators did not intend. Here’s the description of Paul Slocum’s contribution to the panel by the game website Joystiq:

Paul Slocum took an old Epson LQ500 dot-matrix printer and reversed engineered a box that lets him program and play music through it by changing the speeds and strengths that the pins strike the paper. It really has to be heard to be believed (it’s part of the song – former dot-matrix users will hear it right away). He also uses an Atari 2600 with a modified cartridge to generate drums and “bleep” sounds. Pretty impressive stuff.

You read that right, Tree Wave makes music using things like Dot Matrix printers. On treewave.com there’s even more detail:

We’re a Dallas based band that makes shoegazy pop music and video using obsolete 70’d and 80’s computer and videogame gear, accompanied by female vocals The code to drive the music and video is our own, and it’s all dirty assembly language. Music comes from Commodore 64s, an old PC FM sound card (OPL3), and a dot matrix printer, and video is all Atari 2600.

Our music is noisy pop, often with unusual song structure, and the video ranges from abstract color noise to actual hacked and deconstructed Atari 2600 games

We perform regularly at festivals and new media venues in New York and Europe, and our cd that we released last year has received a flood of positive reviews Our videos have been screened at galleries and festivals in New York, Canada, and Europe.

It was really a funny moment as I was driving along listening to the panel, because suddenly I was hearing the theme to BBS Documentary and for a split-second thought this guy might be ripping it off! Then I realized this guy was a “good guy” and that he was calling his band “Tree Wave” and I had to seek it out. I still have not bought their CD officially, just listening to publicly available mp3 files, but it’ll be my next music purchase. If you download the SXSW podcast Paul Slocum and his descriptions of reprogramming the firmware by plugging into the font expansion port of a dot matrix printer, and his other descriptions of messing with 1980s hardware starts at about 11:05. Again, for a certain subset of folks out there, I give the highest possible recommendation.

Treewave’s Gear

Also during the SXSW presentation he plays a song using the game Combat and in playing the song it’s laying information over the top of the game’s data area, deconstructing the game. This is wonderful stuff, I wish this YouTube video were better, I think the compression of the Flash video can’t keep up with the 8-bit graphics.