The Electric Lucifer

Stones Throw compilation revives the legend of Bruce Haack

An interesting bit of Edmonton's musical history has recently come back into the spotlight thanks to the folks at Stones Throw (who you may know as the label behind Madlib, J Dilla and MF DOOM). Bruce Haack was technically born and raised around Rocky Mountain House, and his major contributions to the music world would come while he lived in New York, but his formative musical experience was right here in good ol' our town: he attended the now-defunct Edmonton University after getting rejected from the U of A's music program, and while here he did musical direction for a few plays and played in a cover band called the Swing Tones.

Haack is a pretty underappreciated figure outside select circles, but he's essentially one of the creative forces behind electronic music: he invented the Farad—named for the physicist Michael Faraday—an electronic voice modulator that's essentially a precursor to the vocoder. He had a way with electronics, and put together most of the synths and tape machines he used to make his music, a kind of melange of psych, rock and electronic dance, most of which came out in the 1970s.

Haack's music—particularly his spacey, religious-infused concept albums Electric Lucifer and Electric Lucifer Book II—is probably more interesting than the man himself, which is saying something. The Stones Throw compilation, Farad: The Electric Voice, is a solid intro for anyone who wants to delve into one of Edmonton's most oblique but important contributions to music history, collecting tracks from Electric Lucifer through to Bite, an utterly trippy album that features, among other things, extensive use of a 13-year-old boy singing. Crazy stuff.

Nice problem if you can have it

I'm currently on vacation in Montréal, and while discussions with a few ex-pat musicians reveal it's still a fabulous place to be an independent musician, troubles are emerging. Community leaders in the Plateau—arguably the city's/country's most vibrant district, home of St Laurent street and fantastic small venues like Casa del Popolo and Le Divan Orange—have recently begun handing out hefty noise violation tickets with spurious reasoning. The goals of such actions seem a bit nebulous, but the usual platitudes about problems associated with nightlife are getting trotted out. That people who can't deal with the relatively minor negatives of a vibrant nightlife could just move to one of many quieter districts is, of course, never mentioned. Anyway, just something to keep in mind next time people 'round these parts start complaining about Whyte Ave. V

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