Published Aug 01, 2014Bruce Haack is one of Canada's greatest contributions to the history of electronic music, remembered for his bizarre instrument creations, controversial personality and forward-thinking sounds that would become the blueprints for genres like synth-pop and techno. His recording career is an odd mix of groundbreaking music for kids and controversial socio-political statements. Unfortunately, while Haack enjoyed modest success in the '60s, appearing on shows like Johnny Carson and Mr. Rogers, the '70s ground down the outsider genius as they wore on, and Electric Lucifer: Book II came during one of his lowest points.
The original version of Electric Lucifer, released by Columbia in 1970, was Haack's best album. It was his only major label album, and showed Haack embracing the anti-war spirit and style of psych-pop through his cerebral mix of Moog manipulations, synth creations and musique concrete. It was crafted well as an album, cinematic in scope. Book II was recorded in 1979, but, like his later-revered 1978-recorded album Haackula, it would not see the light of day for decades (though a censored version of Haackula called Bite did hit shelves in 1981).
It doesn't appear as though Book II was shelved for its lyrics. While the first instalment employed various session musicians to flesh out the vocals, this album is all Haack, as processed by his own Farad vocoder. While he came off understandably bitter and pessimistic as the sole voice on Haackula, he sounds grounded and lucid on Book II, balancing a good mix of humour, poetry, social commentary and religious imagery in his telling of the Devil's attempts to corrupt Jesus.
The problem may have been the music. Something seems a bit off about "Ancient Mariner" and "Hookin for the Honey," the Farad phrases falling off the rails several times in each track. There is a round of applause in "Stand Up Lazaras" that also appears after the "opa opa" outro of the closing "Moonlight and Roses," but it seems tacked on, especially compared to the tastefully employed collage work of the first book.
Yet, there are some brilliant Haack moments on this record. Applause aside, the brooding breakbeat of "Stand Up Lazaras" and propulsive yet ominous sci-fi pop of "Moonlight and Roses" constitute two of his best tracks. There is a guarded yet infectious optimism in "Good-Life-Good Life," which almost goes "Cowgirl" by Underworld at the one-minute mark, and wistful lullaby "Just a Song at Twilight," with its dramatic windswept outro. Electric Lucifer: Book II isn't his best album, but it remains a notable if essential part of his legacy. (Telephone Explosion)