I'll make your dreams come true / with my monosynth.
"At its best, Joy E has always been about very straightforward melodic pop songs with an artistic element. Iíve 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 donít necessarily go well with those more euphoric style pop songs I tend to sometimes write for Joy E."
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.
In 2011, Ronnie left Tooth & Nail records. Dwarf Mountain Alphabet
, the first album of JE's planned new sound, was released the following year. Said Fantasy's first album is scheduled to come out "early 2014".
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)
- 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 (2012)
- 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.
- Animated Music Video: "Song For All Time" and "Quiet Quieter Than Spiders".
- 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 sincenote .)
- Bolero Effect: The instrumental buildups in the title tracks to "The White Songbook" & "Starcadia".
- 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.
- The first half of Montgolfier And The Romantic Balloons is about various points in the history of ballooning.
- Cover Album: Favorites At Play.
- The Cover Changes The Gender: Averted with "Decode" on "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 Instrumental Opener: "The White Songbook". The intro lasts three minutes, and the song itself lasts only four.
- 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.
- "The Ushering in of the Magical Era" from The Otherly Opus ends with over 2 minutes of sequencer jamming and Ronnie's overdubbed vocals singing "Magical, magical" over and over again.
- 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.
- Lyrical Cold Open: "The Otherly Opus", "The Memory of Alpha", "Red Will Dye These Snows of Silver", and "Whose Voice Will Not Be Heard".
- Minimalistic Cover Art
- Mood Whiplash: Ensues whenever JE's Tastes Like Diabetes and True Art Is Angsty tendencies share album space.
- Nonindicative 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.
- Packaged As Other Medium: The White Songbook. The liner notes were designed like a proper book, complete with a table of contents and a page of copyright and printing information.
- Perishing Synth Pop Voice: On the DHC albums and the earliest JE albums, Ronnie sang with a high, breathy voice that wouldn't have been out of place in a shoegazing band. By Robot Rock, he'd moved away from that style (to a fey style reminiscent of Neil Tennant). However, on some even later recordings—particularly the album My Grandfather, the Cubist and the song "Write Your Last Paragraph"—his singing sounds very raw, like his voice could give out any second.
- 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.
- "Sweet Sweet Charity" first appeared on Rainbow Rider, then was rerecorded for Melody.
- "Sing Once for Me" (from The White Songbook) gets very, very rearranged as a lighter, poppier tune on Dwarf Mountain Alphabet. Most of the lyrics are altered as well—the chorus is the only part of the song that sounds the same (musically or lyrically) across both versions.
- Reclusive Artist
- Retraux: Played with frequently in the use of analog synths, drum machines, and sequencers.
- 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.
- On the back cover of Rainbow Rider: Beautiful Dazzling Music No. 1, there's a photo of Ronnie with vinyl records by Ronnie's musical heroes Daniel Amos and 4-4-1 clearly visible in the background. The liner notes have a rambling essay that says (among other things) "The Smiths are the best band that ever lived".
- "Nikola Tesla" was a tribute to the man himself.
- "I am a Pioneer" was a tribute to Raymond Scott, Manhattan Research, "and all of the early electronic music pioneers".
- Similarly, "Sheffield Youth" was a tribute to the electronic bands from the Sheffield scene of the late '70s (the liner notes specifically mentioned The Human League and OMD).
- "Draw for Me, M. C. Escher", of course.
- Spoken Word in Music: "The White Songbook", "Hello, Mannequin", and the bridge of "Quite Quieter Than Spiders".
- Sugar Bowl: Evoked quite a bit on Melody, We Are the Music Makers, and Old Wives Tales while most projects up until Hello, Mannequin tended to have a couple sugary-sweet fantasy land songs.
- Surreal Music Video: "Burgundy Years", "Monosynth", "Children of the Lord", and "Red Will Dye These Snows of Silver".
- Textless Album Cover: The Ministry of Archers; Dwarf Mountain Alphabet.
- Take That:
- "The Good Will Not Be Cloned or Why Should the Christians Get All the Bad Music". The lyrics are rather abstract, but seem to be a dig at Christian musicians who deliberately try to be The Moral Substitute for mainstream bands, as well as the industry that encourages these musicians.
- "The Envelopes Brigade" is about gearheads—in Ronnie's own words, "people who buy and sell gear like gangbangers, but ultimately never use it to create anything."
- "The White Songbook" had lyrics dissing the Christian music industry, with barely-veiled references to Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, DC Talk, Amy Grant, and Forefront Records.note
- Take That, Critics!: "The Robot Beat (We're Back)".
- Theremin: Former member Jeff Cloud has used it live but more as a noisemaker than a true "instrument".
- Unplugged Version: Half-heartedly done on Unelectric, which covers his prior Synth Pop songs on acoustic guitar, but the arrangements are still backed by stripped down synths and drum machines.