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The Music Tapes: Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes

The Music Tapes: Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes

Release Date:2008

By Judy Berman | Posted 9/10/2008

Now that retro-rock outfit the Apples in Stereo pop up on the Colbert Report every few months and the folk-to-funk Of Montreal shill for T Mobile and Outback Steakhouse, it's easy to forget how bizarre the Elephant 6 collective can be. Well, Julian Koster is back to remind us, with his first mass-released album under the Music Tapes moniker since 1999.

The erstwhile Neutral Milk Hotel noisemaker is up to the same tricks as ever on Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes, employing ancient recording equipment and homemade instruments in the service of a loose but ambitious concept album. Most songs have something to do with the weather or other natural phenomena, and Koster uses both lyrics and sounds to create his aural environments. A track called "Tornado Longing for Freedom" swirls windily; "In an Ice Palace" is a frosty echo chamber. The entire album crackles like a dusty phonograph record. But like his Athens, Ga., brethren, Koster also has ears for pop, on more immediately palatable songs like scrappy, marching band sing-along "The Minister of Longitude" and "Cumulonimbus (Magnetic Tape for Clouds)," a faraway-sounding symphony.

It may be that Koster has had his head stuck in those titular clouds for the past nine years. Whatever the reason for his absence, it's a relief to see him back at the top of his dreamy, history-obsessed game, with a renewed commitment to keeping Elephant 6 weird.

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