The Music Tapes - Music Tapes For Clouds And Tornadoes

The Music Tapes - Music Tapes For Clouds And Tornadoes
2008; Merge; Athens, Georgia

Elephant 6. What strange mother fuckers. Mid Ninety's, Mid West, Low Fidelity, Fuzz Faced Experimental Psychedelic Poptimists. Somehow though all the gloom and doom of 90's american music this relatively small group of friends were able to make waves underground. And yet through all their overly happy utopia-though-music vibe, their burn out rate was very high. After one of the most seminal records of all time Jeff Mangum vanished in a puff of J. D. Salinger dust. In 2000 the Olivia Tremor Control fractured into two less then satisfactory solo projects. The Gerbils played their farewell tour in '99. By 2002 almost all their activity had fizzled out and the label that bore its name decided to close its doors leaving of Montreal to spin out in wildly extravagant directions and Elf Power to release one more or less mediocre album after another. 

I guess it all changed around in early 2007 when the Apples In Stereo, who never officially broke up, released their first album in five years. Turn it over and, to every one's surprise, there stood the Elephant 6 logo, fresh out of retirement. But it was 2008 that really marked the second coming. A huge, collective wide Holiday Surprise tour; Jeff Mangum's first concert appearance in god knows how long; the long awaited debut of the Major Organ and the Adding Machine film; even the emergence of some new bands such as Nana Grizol (check out Love It, Love It if you have the time. Its flamboyantly gay but in an absolutely awesome way).

But the man who really took charge was Julian Koster, formally of Neutral Milk Hotel and Chocolate USA. In one short year he arranged the Holiday Surprise tour, released the much anticipated second Music Tapes album (nine years after the first one), put out an album of chirstmas carols under his given name, went on a mother fucking door to door caroling tour, persuaded hand saws to sing, built a seven foot tall metronome, lifted spirts everywhere, brought love to poor children across the globe, orchestrated world peace, found Waldo, and baked some really goddamn good cookies. 

If that does not win the award for longest introduction to an album review then I give up.

But of course we are here to talk about his surprising August release, The Music Tapes For Clouds And Tornadoes. This is an album that you could store safely under the label of experimental pop. It starts with using lo-fi in a very different light. Recorded on a vast amount of different mediums, including a 1930's wire recorder, a number of reel to reel tape machines, a Hi-8 video camera, a handheld cassette recorder, and a (gasp) computer, it never strays into the god-I-cant-hear-what-their-fucking-saying territory that is generally associated with the genre. Instead the recording equipment is used as an instrument in itself, morphing the vocals and instruments into sounds you've never herd before, sometimes fuzzier, sometimes warmer, sometimes crackling, sometimes crazier, always different. The array of sound makers used to begin with is impressive. Bowed guitar, accordion, magnus organ, harmonium, string quartet, trumpet, fugal horn, melodica, seven foot tall metronome, programed television, and a home made tape organ designed by Eric Harris. With the base brought in by Koster's stumed banjo and constant use of the singing saw it all creates such a symphony like absolutely nothing else. 

And all of this is used to get across the feeling of...joy. This, if nothing else, took me aback. You see, I don't generally like "happy" music. I would take SoundGarden over Oasis any day, the Mountain Goats over Grizzly Bear. I find most optimistic music to be unabashed escapism or pure empty saccharine. And especially these days with the legions of smiling cutesy indie pop fanatics, songs with up beat messages tend to make me sick. But.. there are no exaggerated smiles on the faces of the Music Tapes and if this music is indeed analogise to ice cream then at least it contains the mother fucking calories. These songs sound like they don't belong to any time, that they were always floating in some kind of subspace that you can slip into when you like. These are not songs for when you get a new unicorn sticker or find that you can draw big anime eyes better. These are songs for when you pass the big fountain in central park and decide yes, goddammit, you do in fact have to jump in it. These are songs for driving way to fast down a highway while your friend stands out of the sun roof and shouts and laughs. These are songs for when you realize you are so fucking in love with life and you never want this moment to end.

I'll repeat something that was said to me: Unless you are already a Music Tapes fan you haven't experienced anything so distinct in a long time.

Theres one thing I know for sure
Your beautiful.

1. Saw Ping Pong And Orchestra
2. Schedrevka
3. Freeing Song for Reindeer
4. Majesty
5. Nimbus Stratus Cirrus (Mr. Piano’s Majesty)
6. Freeing Song by Reindeer
7. Tornado Longing for Freedom
8. Songs for Oceans Falling
9. Kolyada #1
10. The Minister of Longitude
11. Manifest Destiny
12. Kolyada #2
13. Cumulonimbus (Magnetic Tape for Clouds)
14. Julian and Grandpa
15. In an Ice Palace

If You Are To Watch This Video Please Do It At Very High Volume

children will dream of you as they grow old

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