Bruce Haack Listen Compute Rock Home/The Best of Dimension 5

Let's go out on a limb and say that this is the best children's record available this holiday season. Now let's go further out on that limb and say this is a landmark record in the history of electronic music. Intrigued? Bruce Haack was born in Northern Alberta in 1931. He ended up in New York in the late ’50s and began to build his own electronic instruments. While working as a piano accompanist for dance he hooked up with Esther Nelson, "an open minded children's dance educator with a vaguely bohemian bent." From 1963 onwards they began recording music for children, forming a label called Dimension 5 (the dimension of imagination according to them). They released The Way Out Record For Children from 1968, which led to them appearing on Mister Rogers' Neighbourhood giving synthesiser demonstrations. All the music on the on this compilation was recorded on two reel-to-reel decks and cheap microphones in Haack's apartment. Tape loops of guitars, sitars, backward flutes and what would now be called breakbeats are overlaid with some of the best analog-synth patches ever, then bathed in tape echo while being panned from speaker to speaker continuously. Bluegrass, soul jazz, surf and baroque are but a few of the musical styles. However, it is the vocal content that elevates the proceedings to the sublime. History lessons, science recitations about the American eagle and army ants, and many dance activities get the young and old moving and shaking like "Jelly Dancers." The songs are straight-up information and madcap psychedelia at the same time. The Dimension 5 sound is never a put-on, though. Miss Nelson & Bruce do not condescend one bit while entertaining and educating kids. If the kids end up singing along to processed vocals that would not sound out of place on a Daft Punk record, so much the better. As the liner notes state: "adults who can't tolerate Barney for five seconds can listen to the entirety of The Way Out Record again and again." This compilation is excellent; a great holiday gift for a kid and parent you love. Or for a drug-addled 20-something you love just as much. (Emperor Norton)