Ronald of Orange / Joy Electric

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“Brush Away the Cobwebs” is the debut EP release from Ronald of Orange, AKA underground pop charm-king Ronnie Martin, who with his dazzling keyboard-driven gems in Joy Electric and other bands inspired a thousand bands to create melancholy musical bliss. The Southern California-based Martin has fronted the adored, analog-electro-purists Joy Electric for over a decade now, putting out countless records and remixes while tirelessly touring across the country performing his one man synth-pop symphonies.

So why would he start a new solo band after all this time you ask? Adding shimmering guitars and more sparkling harmonies than some of his darker, more progressive projects of late, Ronald of Orange goes back to the sweet cane-sugar root of Ronnie’s earliest work. It is at once a stripped down resurrection, a pure pop Phoenix from the ashes of original synth-rock.

RIYL: If Belle and Sebastian and The Pet Shop Boys got together with MGMT and Of Montreal to record some new songs and listened to nothing but Magnetic Fields before recording, what came out might be something like “Brush Away the Cobwebs.” Poppy and upbeat, kitschy yet clever, but always bubbling along with a sweetened sadness, it’s not so easy to pin down the sound of Ronald of Orange. And we like that.

The songs: Just 24 seconds into the title track this far too short five songer, you know exactly what you’re in for: a chorus so shimmering, so euphoric, you forget that there was once a time when ARTISTS (not market-driven musicians) had a pop song-craft ethic this pure. What follows are four more songs steeped in pop sensibility and sincerity that your heart begins to beat again after the shock realization that you stumbled upon a slice of dance-driven heaven: every song is good. “Potential” rolls in like the Human League performing on a late night music channel in their early prime, with a lead synth line crooning underneath the sad refrain of “why can’t you see you’ve not realised your potential”, and you can’t help but wonder if Martin has directed this line at himself, as if he’s on a quest that has been unfulfilled. “Things That Are Lost” and “It Hurts to Hear You Speak” move forward effortlessly with dark yearnings for what might have been, amidst the trappings of electric pianos and bubbling analog bass lines, leaving both Burt Bacharach and Bernard Sumner smiling from ear to ear if they heard it. The disc ends quickly with the plaintive “Today”, an Innocence Mission cover given a blanket of Orange, with old beat machines and out of tune guitars and synths. A reflective end to a bright future.