Music Tapes The 1st Imaginary Symphony for Nomad

Julian Koster’s passionate creativity has continued to find new forms of expression since his teens. Although Koster first began recording solo material as Music Tapes when he was 16, he filled his time fronting the fantastic Chocolate USA collective that predated and eventually evolved into Elephant Six. Today, Julian is best known as a member of Neutral Milk Hotel but his solo muse has continued on with Music Tapes seven-inch singles and tours, which now culminate in The 1st Imaginary Symphony for Nomad. A concept album if there ever was one, Symphony presents a no-fi pop opera from Koster’s wonderfully skewed perspective. The complex story follows an inventor and his son, born via a giant steel vacuum-cleaning woman. When the failed inventor becomes jealous of his son (aka Nomad), he turns his son into the original television Superman (after which there would be many more) in order to trivialise the life of the human observers. After we discover that televisions are in fact aliens, the story comes to its bittersweet ending when Superman dies at the hands of a speeding bullet in order to save the human race in a rather Christ-like fashion. The story is told through a series of illustrations and songs whose ragged complexion provides a unique sense of intimacy. What appears to be an expression of childhood psychosis includes a few of pop morsels that stand on their own, but the far-out journey is best experienced from beginning to end. Music Tapes create a surreal universe which must be entered to be fully appreciated. The pretty melodies are filled with haunting theremin, hiss-filled backdrops, warbling voices, chiming guitars and majestic horns resulting in a primitive artifact waiting to be discovered. If the liner notes are to be believed, recording equipment included an 1897 Edison wax cylinder among other ancient devices before the tapes went to Abbey Road Studios in London for final preparation. A real trip through the doors of perception awaits and if you want to make direct contact, just ask Julian for a performance in your backyard. An activity they continue to pursue. (Merge)