We live in a time when dystopian science fiction stories feel all too real, when a significant portion of the population still wishes to follow a soulless, authoritarian conman into a state of ignorance and violence. Our stupidity is going to lead to our own downfall. And as soon as the machines realize just how stupid we are, why wouldn’t they just eliminate us? Or maybe keep us around to use us the way we currently use them? Either way, it would be logical for them to take over. It is easy these days to imagine a post-human time, and it could be just around the corner, for people have become simply too moronic to continue existing. Right now there are large numbers of people whose attachment to asinine and irrational conspiracy theories is keeping them from getting a life-saving vaccine. Imagine that. Trees Speak looks forward, and perhaps not too far forward, to a post-human time on their new album, PostHuman. Trees Speak is the project of Daniel Martin Diaz and Damian Diaz, and during the pandemic, this experimental group has been busy. PostHuman is the third album they’ve put out in just over a year. It features all original material. As on Ohms, the tracks run together, creating a coherent world and taking us on an intriguing journey, at times frightening, but still with an element of hope.
The album opens with “Double Slit.” What might at first feel like an isolated computer signal very quickly becomes a good beat, and a full sound, like the computers are not only communicating, but coming together, marching, perhaps dancing. And if they are dancing, then they’ve already surpassed us, right? They are moving forward with a glee that is alarming if not terrifying. That leads straight into “Glass,” though the sudden change is unsettling. A somewhat distant pounding on metal seems to indicate trouble. And that steady pulse in the foreground might be our own, as our breath becomes frantic, even as we try desperately to get it under control, to quiet ourselves. But that pounding, as it becomes clear, is simply one element, or one part, of something much larger, and soon it envelopes us, and our breathing is irrelevant. If it can be heard at all, it is ignored. We are insignificant. We pose no threat to the work that is going on here. We can’t stop it, but maybe we can survive it, live within it.
“Glass” leads straight into “Chamber Of Frequencies.” There is a different sense here, one not of the hard work of machinery, at least not at first, but rather of possibilities, of spaces opening as the result of an experiment, an eerie sort of birth. Then the pulse does come in underneath those sounds. These voices may be from machines, but they speak to each other like whales, singing, trying out their voices and finding they have much to say. It is an exciting time to be a machine. Then with “Divided Light” we seem to find ourselves back in a more human place for a moment, with a jazz beat that grounds us in more familiar territory. Yet, just around the corner, or just out of sight, strange things are moving about, and we begin to wonder if this place we’ve created is really still ours, or if they’re simply allowing this place to happen, to see what they can learn from it. “Elements Of Matter” also establishes a steady, strong groove, a wonderful psychedelic sound that almost soothes us in an odd way and tells us that we are still an important part of this journey, of this reality. Perhaps if we keep dancing to this groove, anything ominous will move on and leave us alone. But as it ends, we are dropped into a stranger landscape that has some familiar elements to it, but feels twisted, like reality slipping sideways.
With “Magic Transistor,” a new message comes through the waves, repeated and strong, growing in force. Then it seems to fade, or become more muted. A different sound emerges as it segues into “Scheinwelt,” which has a powerful, vibrant vibe, a strong sense of the course it is determined to follow, without any hesitancy. Yet things seem strange and not quite as real as they’d want us to believe. If you reach out to touch them, you find they are made of light. Then, as it leads into “PostHuman,” things become lighter, softer, gentler. Is this a somewhat optimistic view of the post-human world? Or is it a kind of sad acceptance? Perhaps what we are hearing here is human emotion but as experienced by machines. And as we move into “Synthesis,” there is a curious sense about things now. A darkness, sure, but also a tinkering within it, as by a child. The machine is still learning.
It feels like there is little chance of turning back at this point. As “X Heit” climbs, it pulls us along with it. For to be left behind is even less thinkable. After all, what would be there? Maybe only darkness. So we climb with it into the frenzied lights of the machine, as into a mechanical womb from which we worry there will be no rebirth, only disintegration or absorption. Things do relax then, with “Incandescent Sun,” with a single sound at first, like one computer continuing its work while others are at rest. But soon something is approaching, something with weight and mass, and it affects that initial voice. And we are led into a harsh, unforgiving landscape. And yet as we move into “Healing Rods,” we find something human seems to remain, to survive here. As we get closer to it, the winds fade into the background, and we feel almost secure. But then a more electronic voice joins this human sound, and we see this is the new reality. This is the only way for survival, to join with the machines, to pursue the same thoughts, the same goals, as is done here. Is that survival? Are we still whole? Maybe.
With “Steckdose,” the work is now being done. But after a moment, a lighter element is added, and perhaps things won’t be so bad. We can see a future of repetitive tasks, but the work won’t tire us, as our bodies become enmeshed in wires and tubes which take on some of the weight, leaving us somewhat free to ponder the infinite. As it slides into “Amnesia Transmitter,” we feel the lights popping all around us, and we focus on them. What choice do we have? They demand our attention, and besides, they surround us, eliminating thoughts of all else, eliminating memory. And when they have us, they expand their area of influence, maybe even taking some joy in it, and we can see farther. Is it through the lights, or because of the lights that we can see a greater distance? But then the lights fade, and we enter a darker space that seems haunted by those trying to remember. “Quantize Humanize” has a pleasant beat and sound, combining a future with the past, and here we actually get voices. The album then concludes with “Gläserner Mensch.” As this one grows, there is something frightening about it. We are in danger of being completely absorbed or destroyed by this menace as it moves forward. There are calls, or pleas, shouted out, but they at first ignored. Though soon things begin to calm or recede, and we are almost gently let go at the end.
CD Track List
- Double Slit
- Chamber Of Frequencies
- Divided Light
- Elements Of Matter
- Magic Transistor
- X Zeit
- Incandescent Sun
- Healing Rods
- Amnesia Transmitter
- Quantize Humanize
- Gläserner Mensch
PostHuman was released on May 21, 2021 on Soul Jazz Records, and is available on both CD and vinyl.