As I was redacting and compiling my Hundred Handers playlist, I rediscovered Joy Electric. I don’t know what exactly I thought of this band at first. Something like Boy George on helium singing over a Nintendo. It was weird. But I was twelve, so my shock-threshold ran kind of low. I found the album at a—wait for it—Christian Bookstore (in the alternative CCM section, of course).
So hey you younguns in nuthuggers, leaking autotuned disco from your headphones—spit out your pacifiers and get a load of Ronnie Martin’s Joy Electric. And get ready to get tweaked.
Back in the mid-nineties, nobody I knew knew what the fuck Joy Electric was or why they were so unabashedly Christian and, simultaneously, sort of gay (in both connotations of the word—but not the “stupid” sense). I don’t really think Martin is gay, but anyway, I don’t think they’ve ever sold a lot. Back then, to the CCM market, they were just a little too, you know, out there….
Today, Joy Electric fits right in there with the loosely defined genre, IDM (Intelligent Dance Music—yes, you’re a moron if you like anything else), along with a host of electro-disco jockeys and glitch-geeks with carpal tunnel from something other than (or in addition to) porn. Only, Joy Electric use Moog synthesizers instead of computers—a badge that is unassailably badass to most audiophiles.
Oh yeah. Joy Electric don’t like it when reviewers insinuate or say outright that they use computers. Not long ago, that was a problem for artists like Joy Electric, because somehow, if you used a computer instead of an instrument, reviewers thought you were faking it. Funny how things have changed. You hear Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, Kanye West, and you realize that computers are just so banal, so not a problem. Those artists would have faced the same struggle Joy Electric faced if they dropped on the scene fifteen years ago. And for that, they should check out Ronnie Martin’s Joy Electric; for it is foundational to IDM in much the same way Raymond Scott is to Joy Electric. And I think it’s a reasonable bet that if you thumbed through Dan Snaith’s or Richard D. James’ Ipod, you’d find an LP or two by Joy Electric.
Side note: Though I’m not a fan of the A & R ilk, props to Brandon Ebel of the Tooth and Nail records for signing Joy Electric. When everyone was gobbling up pop punk and rap rock during their post-grunge hangovers, he had the stones to go with these guys. Why? Because they really are great. Better than Xanax.
Big and bold, Joy Electric, you deserve your moment in the sun.