If this album is new to you, the short version of this review is that it’s essential. Bruce Haack’s The Electric Lucifer is the result of several creative surges happening in unison. Imagine the room sized beat generators of Raymond Scott being squeezed into psychedelic pop miniatures. Imagine songs dealing with angels being cast from heaven, and quest to end pain and all wars. Imagine that 50 years after its initial release, it still sounds like it’s from the future.
Haack had spent most of the 60’s making hugely listenable space aged educational music for children. These works focussed on nursey rhymes or counting and dancing games against home-made synthesisers and effects. But that decade ended with the construction of what is undoubtedly one of the most startlingly and fully realised albums every made.
For us at OBLADADA, an early musical quest was to find deeply psychedelic music that blended rock and electronics. Sure, there were flashes but it took a while to discover stuff like Joe Meek’s I Hear a New World, Fifty Foot Hose’s Cauldron or US69’s Yesterday’s Folk. The weird twisted electronic avant-oddness of recordings like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Morton Subotnick or Kid Baltan kicked through in a blender with trippy grooving late 60’s rock. The Electric Lucifer though is perhaps the clearest and most deranged example that does just that.
It takes under 10 seconds to see what the fuss is about in the bouncing madness of Electric To Me Turn. Like a carnival procession for ecstatic robots, narrated by a vocoder that warps space as the words animate into rhythm and buzzing textures. The Word announces more texture and space, before some narration attempts to anchor things in a throbbing sonic soup.
Cherubic Hymn bursts forward with a spacey groove, close harmonies and floats electronic fragments, whilst Program Me opens up deep beds of organ spirals. War jumps through layer of polka marches, jumping between speakers and peppered in all sorts of rubble before opening up into a weird foggy void.
National Anthem To The Moon is like a superbly whacked White Noise single, here is a twisted blistering slice of oddity. Chant Of The Unborn, however, is the number 1 smash from the intergalactic charts. Clanking drums, elastic bands and vocal pixels clashing gloriously into 1 minute and 25 seconds and one of our favourite tracks ever. The track has always had an odd pull, given it appeared on another collection where we first discovered his work, and is listed as Chant of the Unicorn. Both concepts seem equally viable as Haack’s vision solidifies.
Incantation and Angel Child offer spells of stretched out calm in jaw harps and warm smudges, a brief oasis of stillness. Things snap back with the kosmic poetry of Word Game, a flow of interlinking words and letters. No nursey rhymes here but a form of robot hip-hop meditating on things like the fact that LIVED is DEVIL backwards. Not getting sucked into this isn’t an opinion, take our word, you’ll eventually be singing along.
We lose our minds as the lopsided mushroom cloud of Song Of The Death Machine twinkles along. Picked at by fractal Tweety Pie’s and unsettling loose threads, it outlines pop at its wildest extreme. Super Nova is a squelchy NEU! groove slowly morphing into a whirling Terry Riley vortex. At almost 5 and a half minutes, the album’s longest track properly beams light, and in its head-spinning later stages, offers Twinkle Twinkle Little Star like it’s the most beautiful hymn composed of the most joyous word sequence ever imagined.
Requiem ends the album, with what almost feels like normality, with bells, male and female voices and a tight hippy groove. This is trippy pop but quickly it grows and mutates, electronics crowding every space in the sound out until the threads all interlock into a curveball Christmas Noel…
It’s definitely well-deserved praise that’s heaped on this album, but sometimes that means works like this become revered rather than listened to. But The Electric Lucifer positively fizzes with so many ideas and wide eyed confidence, that it feels like something worthy to continue celebrating. The future and the reality that it describes, are still beyond us, but it sits like a crazily concise roadmap should we need it.
The 37-minutes that this album spans, feels like the type of sonic event that doesn’t get made often these days. Whatever you make of the messages here, the music, the experience of letting this album wash over you, it’s undeniably a powerful one. Ingenuity, focus and real effort positively fizzes out of every thoughtful detail here. You can tell this album wasn’t made so Haack could get rich and retire – no, The Electric Lucifer attempts the small task of helping save the world.
Wild, unhinging and conceptually all over the place, The Electric Lucifer is one of the greatest, most twisted albums ever made.
The Electric Lucifer is re-issued on Telephone Explosion on vinyl and digital