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The Music Tapes
Mary's Voice
Merge Records

Once more it's time for diving into the wild and wondrous world of Julian Koster (key member of the legendary Neutral Milk Hotel, and a contributor to The Olivia Tremor Control --- RIP Bill Doss of the OTC, who died July 30th...) and his Music Tapes (counting Koster and and horn-blower Robbie Cucchiaro). The Music Tapes have always been something different. The singing saw, the orchestral banjo, the 7-Foot-Tall Metronome, and so on. Perfect if you're into the more psychedelic woods of the Elephant 6 family. Mary's Voice is their third full-length album. And hopefully as good / interesting as the first two; The First Imaginary Symphony For Nomad and Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes. Julian Koster (and his The Singing Saw Orchestra) has also released The Singing Saw at Christmastime -- a celebration of traditional Christmas songs, holiday classics performed on saw!

Mary's Voice is said to be part one of a planned two-part album, and it for sure opens sounding like... The Music Tapes. "The Dark Is Singing Songs (Sleepy Time Down South)" holds both alternative brass (bass, or sousaphone) and strings (the bowed banjo). The Music Tapes' fuzzy-folk-style music sometimes sounds like a freaky carnival/circus soundtrack, other times simply throwing ear-catchy folk-pop. Even though the album holds 14 tracks, five of the are less-than-a-minute experimental pieces, or fragments (in fact, two tracks clocks in at 16 seconds each). "The Big Beautiful Shops (It's Said That It Could Be Anyone)" is another track (with a long title), showing that Julian Koster still is true to his imaginary, indeed colourful world. "To All Who Say Goodnight" is an oddly catchy song, and one of the tops of the album - it's almost a bowed, twisted and turned Beach Boys (read: Brian Wilson) track. Fact is, it seems/sounds like The Music Tapes are heavily influenced by Mr. Wilson's more psychedelic escapades.

"Playing Evening" is quite fascinating, as it's being a staccato, unpolished stomp. "Go Home Again" is a stripped down song, with Koster, an accordion, and nothing more. "S' Alive to Be Known (May We Starve)" follows, being part two of "S' Alive (Pt. 1)". "Takeshi and Elijah" closes the album, and it's for sure one of the album's finest (if not the finest) moments. Just check when the full orchestra kicks in! As a sum-up I'm not sure if Mary's Voice is Julian's best work. It probably is.

It's been said that: '...inside the body of Julian Koster lives a 13-year-old boy filled with wonder, imagination and a talent for spinning a good, quirky tale...'. If you think The Flaming Lips are crazy, play crazy pop music, perform crazy gigs, you'd better check out The Music Tapes. The sound of a lad in sane. Or is it sane?

Copyright © 2012 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Music Tapes articles/reviews: Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes, The First Imaginary Symphony For Nomad.

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© 2012 Luna Kafé