Working in relative obscurity for much of his career, Bruce Haack crafted a slew of albums between 1963 and the mid 1980s. As with many artists doing something a little bit ahead of their time, his work was largely unrecognized at the time he was creating it (despite being released on Columbia Records), and he died after a somewhat turbulent life. With a small, but growing batch of admirers, he was reworked by modern artists a couple years back on the Dimension Mix compilation, and fortunately a good portion of his work has now been reissued into the market. Originally released in 1970, The Electric Lucifer is considered by some to be one of the very first electronic pop albums. Working with an army of Moogs and other vintage synthesizers, Bruce Haack made himself know as a composer of "kids" music, but the weird (and sometimes dark) themes that propel this release forward found him pushing into different territory.
As one can gather from the title, The Electric Lucifer deals with a litany of religious themes, touching on temptation, the fall of the devil, and ultimately salvation. Many of these ideas and reflections are then run through a sort of technological spin, with the Moog-based music and odd vocals only furthering the vibe. "Electric To Me Turn" kicks things off, and is honestly one of the most catchy songs I've heard this year, regardless of era. As a load of swarming melodies pump and squiggle away, vocodored vocals veer back and forth between sung melodies and a sort of robotic doo wop.
One of the beautiful things about the release is that although it's very pop and rock oriented, it's never completely smooth sailing. There's a remarkable amount of noise and distortion on the release, and it literally sounds decades ahead of its time. "Cherubic Hymn" is more epic, with heavily layered vocals and instrumentation that makes it sound like some sort of bizarro rock opera song, as choruses give way to short spoken word sections and buzzy synth layers keep things constantly moving. Elsewhere, "War" seems to pack both sides of conflict into just under four minutes as a marching, buoyant (almost overly so) first half gives way to a sour, haunting latter section.
Like "War," "Song Of The Death Machine" takes darker lyrics and sets them to a slightly more playful music backdrop (with almost lullabye vocals in places), but as always there's something just not quite right about it all. In addition to the thirteen-track original release, a long interview with Haack is included on the reissue, as well as an alternate version of "Electric To Me Turn" (with sung vocals instead of vocodored ones). It's certainly not going to appeal to everyone, but those who enjoy strange pop music will wonder how they went so long without hearing it (I certainly did). It's a bit harsh at times, and does some completely unexpected things, but that's part of the joy of the release.