Naysayers nitpick the very things that fans love about EDM. The genre’s synths, electronic beats, and automated loops easily tap into something that could get nearly anyone’s toes tapping. But some music lovers hate that precision and efficiency. They long for older, more organic eras.
By Kyle Mullin
But Thomas Gold (who hails from Berlin and is signed to his genre’s most prestigious label, Axtone Records), says there’s a way for a song’s bridge to cross the massive gulf between acoustic and electronica, between the hum of freshly plucked strings and the drone of a computerized device.
“If you have a vocal, then an EDM track can become so much more human. But you can also have electronic sounds that are warm and deep,” says Gold, one of Germany’s hottest up-and-coming dance masterminds. “I think it’s a question of composition, and what instruments you include.”
Gold says he and several other producers have begun incorporating acoustic guitar chords or piano riffs recorded exclusively for them, along with orchestral samples and looped violin notes, to give their tunes an earthier tone.
But the key ingredient for Gold, above all others, is a vocalist that can help fans do more than just dance.
“If you have a vocal and the track has a human voice, then it has more soul. It’s something you can sing along to,” he says. And while that added dimension may offer the listener more, it also makes more demands on the artists, at least according to Gold. “It’s much more complicated to do a vocal track than an instrumental, because first of all you have a human being there.”
Such vocal collaborators often have skills as varied as the switches and knobs on the most elaborate of mixing boards. A singer can offer a producer like Gold an array of melodies, the chance to include choruses and bridges along with the beats, or a myriad of chord structures. It sounds like a world of wonder, in the same way that vocals add more depth for a listener—but those endless intricacies require complex designs.
“It gives you much more opportunities, but on the other hand there’s lots more things to consider, and you have to choose your approach. There’s so many things you can do, which take a lot of time,” Gold says.
The most memorable of these instances occurred when Gold collaborated with Kaelyn Behr for the tension rung track “Remember.” Released late last fall, the simmering smash hit features sped up classical notes that sound like an orchestra slowly succumbing to a bad acid trip. But the song didn’t start out that way.
“Kaelyn changed the whole approach—he changed notes and chord progressions, and it inspired me to but a string section in before his vocals started,” Gold says of Behr’s yearning delivery. “I was able to create a lot more tension and buildup according to the vocal that he delivered. That kind of back and forth between you and the singer can be very inspiring.”
Gold also relishes sharing similar connections with his audience. Now that they can dance and sing along to his work, those fans are coming in droves to his shows. He especially noticed this while playing a few recent festivals in Brazil and Chile.
“The vibe at festivals is always special, because you’ll have this ocean of people in front of you, and you can see their hands up in the air,” Gold says, adding that electric, buzzing connectivity between like minds is what defines EDM, rather than a lone producer’s solo dial fiddling, or the supposed sterility of a pre-programmed beat.
“Throughout my whole set in Chile, there was no moment where they were just standing and watching. Everyone wouldn’t stop jumping around. For a DJ, there’s nothing more enjoyable than that.”
Thomas Gold will be playing Ageha on Saturday night. For more information, check out our event calendar.