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"At its best, Joy E has always been about very straightforward melodic pop songs with an artistic element. I’ve struggled in one sense because although I love pop songs, I also love early electronic music, which to me is about using very raw, minimal textures that don’t necessarily go well with those more euphoric style pop songs I tend to sometimes write for Joy E."—Ronnie Martin, in a 2011 interview with Devon Kretzin
Joy Electric is a Christian Synth Pop project from California, formed by Ronnie Martin in 1994. Although Ronnie has collaborated with various musicians in the past, it has, for the majority of its existence, remained his solo project.
JE's origins lay in an early-90s collaboration between Ronnie and his brother Jason, which bounced between rock and techno and cycled through names like 2 Ladds and Morella's Forest before signing to the fledgling Blonde Vinyl Records as Dance House Children. Jason left to start his own rock band, and Ronnie shifted from rave music to pop, changing the name of the project to signal the transition (and moving to Tooth & Nail Records after Blonde Vinyl died).
Joy Electric continued changing, minimizing their sound in pursuit of Ronnie's ideals of analog musical purity. We Are the Music Makers and subsequent albums saw Ronnie performing solely on monosynthesizers and analog sequencers. The White Songbook and subsequent albums saw Ronnie stripping the sound down even further, recording entire albums on a single synthesizer (initially a Roland System 100, later a Moog Voyager). The instruments may have been minimal, but the music wasn't (The White Songbook in particular featured JE's densest instrumental arrangements, and The Otherly Opus went crazy with vocal arrangements.)
In 2010, Ronnie moved to Ohio, got a day job as a worship arts pastor, and started a new synthpop project (with his daughter, Beth) called Said Fantasy. According to statements in interviews and on his official forum, Ronnie's plan is to split his two songwriting focuses between both projects: Said Fantasy will be his outlet for songs influenced by early electronic music, while Joy Electric will focus on pop and will (for the first time in years) feature extensive use of polyphony.
At the moment, Ronnie is raising funds via Kickstarter to pay for self-releasing the next JE album.
Dance House Children
- Songs & Stories (1991)
- Jesus (1992)
- Rainbow Rider: Beautiful Dazzling Music No. 1 (1993)
- Melody (1994)
- Five Stars For Failure EP (1995)
- We Are The Music Makers (1996)
- Old Wives Tales EP (1996)
- Robot Rock (1997)
- The Land Of Misfits EP (1998)
- CHRISTIANsongs (1999)
- Unelectric (2000)
- The White Songbook (2001)
- Starcadia EP (2002)
- The Tick Tock Treasury (2003)
- The Tick Tock Companion EP (2003)
- The Magic Of Christmas (2003)
- Hello, Mannequin (2004)
- Friend Of Mannequin EP (2004)
- Workmanship EP (2005)
- The Ministry Of Archers (2005)
- Montgolfier And The Romantic Balloons EP (2005)
- The Otherly Opus (2007)
- Their Variables EP (2007)
- My Grandfather, The Cubist (2008)
- Early Cubism EP (2009)
- Curiosities And Such EP (2009)
- Favorites At Play (2009)
- Dwarf Mountain Alphabet (initially scheduled for fall 2011 release; currently Ronnie is raising funds for it)
- Horse of Faded Grandeur single (2010)
- Shepherd: Committing to Tape (2003) Acoustic rock.
- The Brothers Martin: The Brothers Martin (2007) A mix of modern rock, new wave, and synth-pop. Ronnie's first collaboration with Jason Martin since the Dance House Children days.
- The Foxglove Hunt: Stop Heartbeat (2008) New wave. A collaboration with Rob Witham from Fine China.
- Ronald of Orange: Brush Away the Cobwebs (2009) Acoustic-synth-pop.
- The Foxglove Hunt: Built My Fortress EP (2009)
Tropes associated with Joy Electric:
- All Lowercase Letters: The White Songbook's liner notes.
- Band of Relatives: Ronnie's wife played some on the album Favorites at Play. Dance House Children and The Brothers Martin featured Ronnie's brother Jason. Said Fantasy features his daughter Beth.
- Berserk Button: Comparing JE's vintage synthesized sound to old school video game music pisses off Ronnie and his fans.
- Black Sheep Hit: "Sugar Rush" and "Drum Machine Joy" (the latter of which is Hilarious in Hindsight, considering Ronnie's refusal to use drum machines in almost all his albums since.)
- Breakup Breakout: JE has yet to achieve mainstream popularity, but it's definitely better known than Dance House Children ever was.
- Christian Rock / Not Christian Rock: While Joy Electric's lyrics are mostly abstract with few obvious references to Christianity, he's always been upfront about his faith in interviews, and he wrote the album CHRISTIANsongs specifically so people would stop asking, "So, is Joy Electric a Christian band?" Ronnie himself is also worship arts pastor.
- Concept Album: The White Songbook, The Tick Tock Treasury, Hello, Mannequin, The Ministry of Archers, and The Otherly Opus were supposed to be parts of what Ronnie called The Legacy Series. The themes of some of these made sense on their own: Tick Tock had a story in the liner notes about a fantasy kingdom under attack. Mannequin was about the dark side of both fame and friendship. The second half of Opus was about the book of Genesis, between the Fall and the Flood. But Songbook and Archers were impenetrable, and no one besides Ronnie knows how the five albums are supposed to be connected.
- Cover Album: Favorites At Play.
- Don't Shoot the Message: While Ronnie is a devout Christian, some of his lyrics address hypocrites and prigs who claim the faith ("Disloyalist Party", for example).
- Epic Rocking: Several tracks on The White Songbook are just over 6 minutes long. The Tick Tock Companion EP has only four tracks, yet is over an hour long; you do the math.
- Genre Adultery: The album Unelectric featured Ronnie performing prior songs with acoustic instruments. The Tick Tock Companion EP sees Ronnie abandon pop for Tangerine Dream-style abstract jamming.
- Gratuitous Panning: The song "Hello, Mannequin" has Ronnie's vocals switching back and forth between channels, to creepy effect.
- Greatest Hits Album: The Art And Craft Of Popular Music.
- I Am the Band
- It's Been Done: Ronnie's explanation for the track selection of Favorites at Play. He'd initially thought to do an album covering songs that he had loved growing up, but then he realized there was already a glut of albums covering 80's songs. So he decided to cover songs that had come out in the last five years instead.
- Minimalistic Cover Art
- Mood Whiplash: Ensues whenever JE's Tastes Like Diabetes and True Art Is Angsty tendencies share album space.
- Non Indicative Title:
- Joy Electric has far more songs ranging from melancholy to outright wangsty than they do genuinely joyful songs. Ronnie even claimed on the official forum once that "I don't write happy songs".
- Some of his releases are marked as EPs, but are long enough that they could be considered albums. In particular, The Tick Tock Companion and Their Variables are both longer than the albums they were released after (The Tick Tock Treasury and The Otherly Opus, respectively).
- Old Shame: Ronnie consistently cites We Are the Music Makers as his least favorite album. He feels that, underneath the new production techniques, the songs themselves were subpar.
- Perishing Synth Pop Voice: Most evident on "Write Your Last Paragraph" and the entirety of My Grandfather, the Cubist.
- Rearrange the Song: A lot of the EPs feature remixes of songs from the just-released album. In particular, Their Variables has remixes of every single track from The Otherly Opus.
- Reclusive Artist
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Ronnie is pretty much the only singer, so all backing vocals are like this. The Otherly Opus in particular plays with this.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Ronnie's lyrics, at times.
- Spoken Word in Music: "The White Songbook", "Hello, Mannequin", and the bridge of "Quite Quieter Than Spiders".
- Textless Album Cover: The Ministry of Archers.
- Take That, Critics!: "The Robot Beat (We're Back)".
- Unplugged Version: Subverted on Unelectric, which covers his prior Synth Pop songs on acoustic guitar, but still including stripped down synths and drum machines.
- ↑ Hello, Mannequin is the one exception; he used a Roland CR-78