A Pentecostal minister’s son, Joshua Barton’s musical upbringing was the Church of God’s red hymnal, but his musical education was the punk rock basement shows of the Great Lakes state’s largest prison town. These, together with a taste of 90s shoegaze from a nearby, short-lived college radio show, are Joshua’s foundation.
On his latest release, The Wood Panel Program, Joshua takes a headlong old-souled plunge into a merger of shoegaze, primitive folk and dark country, assembling an immersive album of 10 songs each bookended by ambient found sounds recorded during travels from coast to coast. Joshua’s subdued and honest voice tells tales of devotion, disorientation, death and dying over layers of fingerpicked guitar, percussion and drone. Songs like “Sacred Heart”, “Glass Down in the Sand” and “Doubting Tom Thumb Blues” evoke spiritual themes at once playful and solemn.
Joshua started recording and self-releasing cassettes as Fields of Industry in 1999. That project lasted for 12 years, becoming a Michigan mainstay that ran the gamut from Spacemen 3-inspired shoegaze to Roky Erickson psych-garage; from sparse electric guitar duo to all-out free-rocking, triple Telecastered band. Fields of Industry produced one EP and three full length albums, including 2008’s Two Dogs, A Television and 2010’s Trouble House. Fields of Industry played Michigan and Midwest shows with the likes of Unwed Sailor, Aloha, Viva Voce, Elephant Micah and many, many more. All this while trying to bridge the gap between the tune in/drop out message of Joshua’s reverberated heroes and the drunkard’s plea prayers of the church’s red hymnal and St. Johnny Cash.
In the meantime, Joshua and friends launched the Arts vs Entertainment label, and fiddled with noise, feedback loops and function generators. Taken together with some pent-up songwriting, this led to Joshua’s first solo album, the 2009 online and CD-R release Thanks, I Missed You, Too. Assembled of spaced-out guitars, primitive finger picking, clarinets and found sounds, the album found receptive ears in music blog circles. Other solo releases followed, including a live set from a Brooklyn house show and a split EP of solo guitar music with Fields of Industry bandmate, Eric Gallippo (also of Man at Arms and Congress).
Joshua’s The Wood Panel Program continues to hone in on a new balance between outerspace sounds and downhome hymns. It is available on cassette from Lafayette Recs and digitally on Joshua’s Bandcamp page. It will be available via iTunes, Spotify, etc. late in 2012.