Tree (Featuring Beat Culture & Lena Kuhn)
Apollo Records, 2013
Review by Kent Manthie
I got this brand new EP a couple weeks ago by Tree, aka Oliver Tree Nickell, a 3-song EP entitled Demons. I must say it is, well, different, yet similar. Having just joined the Apollo Records roster, Tree’s debut with them is this quick little snatch of sound to test the waters, so to speak.
While Oliver isn’t even that old (age?), he has already been around and explored various genres to find what suits him and/or to keep fresh; he’s played with “ska-punk” and psychedelic jam bands as well as did some rapping in between. He started out in his teens, where he paid his dues by doing the dubstep thang and was given accolades for his accomplishment there.
Now he’s matured a bit and his Demons EP is an interesting combination of i
nfluences and a mish-mash of what’s in his mind. The first cut, “Demons” is a multi-tiered number; it starts with a tabla-like drum opening that leads to a chill-out anthem.
Helping Tree out on Demons is Beat Culture as well as Lena Kuhn, the latter providing some backing vocals. Tree’s voice, itself is one of those instantly recognizable ones, that is, once you do get to know it. His is not an operatic or choral voice, but a blunt and plaintive wail; one where sarcasm and cynicism lurk.
His version of Radiohead’s “Karma Police” takes that and turns it from what you
know of from hearing the original and makes it his own product. Instead of the typical rock & roll set-up (bass, guitar, drums, keyboards, etc.) that is part of the original version, Tree’s cover is backed by a smorgasbord of sounds: synthesized symphonics, textured layers. The only thing that mars this version, I think, is the vocal, which is an almost mocking (at times) sounding voice, a sort of over-the-top whininess that doesn’t always sound that serious. The EP redeems itself, though, with “Rabbit Hole”, the third song. His singing is a bit more sedate and the dreamy, atmospheric soundscape is breathtaking; it’s an enjoyable ride.
All in all, it’s not a bad EP. Two pretty good tunes and a so-so cover song. Hey, two out of three ain’t bad, right? The proof, though, is in the putting out of a full-length disc and/or live performances.
One can only guess at what’s coming next, but when you’re with an indie label and you have a lot more creative freedom (than some corporate crap) there’s almost no limit to what can be done. So, it’s a wait and see thing. So far, so good. Let’s see if the next release measures up! -KM