Just when you thought we knew all the ‘odd balls’ in music there is to know, Stones Throw Records finds an eclectic soul that “deserves at least one proper retrospective” and Farad: The Electric Voice certainly is that.
I’d be a bare faced liar if I said I’d heard of Bruce Haack before. Apparently, this guy scored Kraft Cheese commercials in the 1950s, wrote an album called Haackula (worth a place in the ‘Odd Ball’ Hall Of Fame in itself) and he goes and ends his career in Johnny Cash stylee with a 12″ on the Def Jam label!
I’m sold even before putting the CD on although you might guess from the cover that this guy is a proper eccentric. Haack was born in Alberta, Canada in 1931 and won a scholarship to the world famous Juilliard Music School in New York in the mid-50s only to drop out almost as soon as he started. Haack ended up starting his own label in the 60s, Dimension 5, that concentrated on making educational music for children as well as making weird musical instruments like the Magic Wand and the Dermatron (the Jonny Trunk/Thomas Truax combination of his day).
However, Farad: The Electric Voice focuses on his “conceptual electronic psych-rock” period of 70s/80s featuring Moog and proto-vocoders an including tracks from his Electric Lucifer album that managed to get released on Columbia; the ‘Farad’ being one of his many homemade instruments and one of the very first vocoders.
True psych Beach Boys with the electric voice never too far away, ‘National Anthem To The Moon’ being a good trippy one (a perfect complement to the Sept-Oct issue of Shindig magazine).
The childlike whimsy/commercial elements (‘Maybe This Song’) will appeal to fans of Jonny Trunk (great show this week on Barrry Gray/Gerry Anderson fan club. And there’s definitely a connection as the spoken introduction to ‘Rain Of Earth’ goes, “Well, this is a science fiction song about children from another galaxy who set their controls for the heart of the sun and ended up on our planet”. Perhaps more like early Pink Floyd than Captain Scarlet? No, he’s got his Captain Scarlet/Joe 90 side as there’s never been a woman like ‘Rita’! Or is it Kraftwerk gone bonkers at Joe Meek’s gaff? And it’s a shame that the instrumental ‘Noon Day’ is so short.
And if you thought you couldn’t re-invent Sparky’s Magic Piano into anything cool, check out the groovy lounge rumba of ‘Man Kind’ that’s outta this world.
From the cover, Haack doesn’t look the happiest of folks and there’s some darkness (‘The King’, ‘Stand Up Lazarus’ and ‘Snow Job’) on this CD and the “electric voice” element gets a little too much after a bit; to miss quote Zappa, “Shut up and play your snyths”. There some pop weirdness of ‘Program Me’ and then the electro-funk of ‘Party Machine’ ends the CD with us wanting more.
Unfortunately Haack died of a heart failure in 1988 so it’s somewhat tragic that over 20 years on, it’s been up to Stones Throw (no doubt Egon and Peanut Butter Wolf found him at the same time) for putting together this compilation. Ideal mixtape material as it’s so odd (even now) and varied – Stones Throw, we love you!
P.S. – Farad “sounds like Michael Faraday but sounds far out”
Reviewed: Bruce Haack – Farad: The Electric Voice Cat. No. STH2221 Release date: 30th August 2010
1. Electric To Me Turn (1:50)
2. Incantation (3:14)
3. National Anthem To The Moon (2:38)
4. Maybe This Song (3:24)
5. Rain Of Earth (4:45)
6. Rita (3:54)
7. Man Kind (5:58)
8. Epilogue (0:37)
9. Ancient Mariner (3:58)
10. Lie Back (3:21)
11. The King (4:48)
12. Stand Up Lazarus (4:16)
13. Noon Day (1:51)
14. Snow Job (5:01)
15. Program Me (4:02)
16. Party Machine (8:38)
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