November 17, 2010

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Because five hours remain in unofficial Dilla influence Day (little known fact: it is also Treat Your Secretary Right Day, sponsored by Chubb Rock), Stones Throw’s stellar Bruce Haack compilation deserves metnion. There is a straight line from the late vocoder pioneer to a song like “E=MC2.” Somehow, this record escaped review from Pitchfork, RA, Dusted, Fact, and everywhere else. Its lone official review came from Pop Matters, who allowed a church musician to give it a 2/10. Admittedly, Haack is no Michael W. Smith.

However, he was a Julliard-schooled, peyote-ingesting polymath from Alberta, Canada, who was largely obscure to mass audiences in his lifetime. He appeared on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” “The Mike Douglas Show” and “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” earning a rep as a kooky uncle playing extraterrestrial-sounding synths to dazzled audiences a decade before Kraftwerk. Like Dilla himself, Haack was an irrepressible shapeshifter. He spent most of the 1960s and ’70s switching between children’s music, experimental rock operas and acid-rock synth opuses. His collected output runs the gamut from Roald Dahl at his weirdest, Tangerine Dream being covered by Kraftwerk and Devo on strong drugs. He’s been sampled by Cut Chemist and covered by Beck and Stereolab. 22 years after his death, Haack’s music remains the right strand of strange.

No description is more trite than “visionary,” but the man deserves the crown. Even his swan song, 1982’s “Party Machine,” telescoped toward the future, with Haack collaborating with a young Russell Simmons to create a funky vocoder jam that would probably warp Kanye’s circuits if he heard it today. Highly recommended for androids who dream of electric beats.

Download:
MP3: Bruce Haack — “Stand Up Lazarus (Peanut Butter Wolf Remix)”
MP3: Bruce Haack — “Electric to Me Turn”