GRAND RAPIDS, MI. Electronic music today exhibits unique layers that help elicit different moods with its unique notes. It is also connected to a community of people who care deeply about its cultivation and presentation. Joshua Tree played his music earlier this year at the Grand Rapids Public Museum Chaffee Planetarium on January 19th, 2017. He began his journey in electronic music 15 years ago but his current sound developed under his moniker began two years ago. Tree is enthusiastic about connecting his listeners to sounds that are new to them while creating excitement. His passion for his music means doing something novel and of high quality at the same time.
“Production can be anything, production is making...the way I do that, is almost all analog, electronic instruments, so no laptop” Tree said.
“I always hear sounds that I don’t hear anywhere else” he said about electronic music. His music is created by means that “...is almost all analog, electronic, no acoustic instruments, no laptop, and almost no computer chips”. Tree overlaps boundaries of genres and makes music that does not stay within only one sub genre. His music can be described as centric around techno, house, hard techno, Detroit techno, and Chicago techno.
“As far as the genre pushing aspect, [...] in the past it’s always kind of been house or techno, hard techno and these have been really successful. I want to keep pushing it, start on the weird techno hard stuff, any genres, and go from there. I want to go into the jungle scene” he said.
He collaborated with Boy Alberto in Chicago in November 2016, on a mix that can be accessed here: [https://www.mixcloud.com/joshua-tree/s-y-n-t-h-e-t-i-c-m-i-x/] . The mix begins eerily with a slow pace introducing harmonic sounds that emanate meditation gongs. This mix, in particular, displays a few samples of songs by other artists that are recognizable as Radiohead, Nina Simone, and Lauryn Hill. All separate sound components are constructed with a low beat and a sound similar to a strand of musical bells being shaken.
The mix then picks up with a hip hop beat of a Lauryn Hill cover of the 1967 hit “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You” by Frankie Valli. Overall, Tree’s sound is an eclectic mix of earthy and dark sounds that rise and fall in slow measures to build tension being ambient and subdued. There are no abrupt sound drops nor staccato notes that create a fast pace characteristic of mainstream trap, dubstep, or EDM. The mix displays well-known and critically acclaimed artists. H showcases his ability to combine song samples with techniques that add texture and a slow flow to otherwise abstract, hip hop, or alternative rock sounds.
Being an analog producer in contemporary electronic music can also mean being authentic to its roots by way of acute manipulation and knowledge of pairing sounds that otherwise don’t connect. The mix relies a lot on the beat that the song samples provide and demonstrate less of Tree’s talent to produce music live, as he did at the Planetarium show. It is a tightly bound mix that does not stray much from a deep house beat and the simplicity carries the mix variations making it easy to listen to.
“In the past I have focused on house and on techno, and if it’s really successful people say hard-techno, so this year I want to keep pushing it...start on the weird hard techno electronica that’s out there and genre-less and go from there”.
As co-founder of 44 Soundsystem, a production company that began 4 years ago, comprised of a group of other similar musicians, Tree wants to connect to his audience in a personal manner. 44 Soundsystem has forged a dozen of original curated event productions. Light, design, and venue location combined create an encapsulating experience to take an audience member from bystander to participant. To present electronic music in a light that enhances it quality, each event is tailored to a theme with hand-picked DJs to match accordingly to the host venue.
Tree wants “...to make people dance, to bring people together for dancing. And quality electronic music doesn’t always have to be dance music. We think that bringing people together for dancing is just one of the best things we can do for our community because when people get together at our events, it’s not like bar culture, it’s really about love at the foundation” he said.
A step away from the bars and venues that focus on providing music in addition to drinking alcoholic beverages, Joshua Tree, remains focused on quality electronic music not easily defined by genre-centric terms and presents an idea of its history in tone. As for the Grand Rapids electronic scene, Tree plans to continue his work with 44 Soundsystem events and look at new venues to connect with to provide a carefully concocted variety of electronic music focused on quality.
“The way electronic music sounds is one thing; that culture has always been underground, that is also appealing to me”. He wants to bring a full sense of community within Grand Rapids. Tree wants to blur boundaries to create “things that are good and sound great and inspiring,and are forward-thinking”.
By way of technological evolution, electronic music has provided a stage in which there are as many tools as musical instruments and is consistently pushing growth. Its history goes back to the rudimentary transferring of electricity into sounds.
When asked what to expect when listening to his music, “I don’t ever want them to expect at all, I want them to not know what to expect”. He records music in his home studio and has a selection of mixes available online.
LISTEN ONLINE: www.mixcloud.com/joshua-tree/s-y-n-t-h-e-t-i-c-m-i-x/
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