Entries tagged with: Julian Koster

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Night, Janitor, Carousel

Although Neutral Milk Hotel will not be touring for the foreseeable future, fans who miss the band's whimsical shows and music will have the opportunity to see band member Julian Koster and his own band The Music Tapes perform with his theatrical troupe, The Orbiting Human Circus, next month in NYC.

Koster is known for his eccentric nature and use of carousels in previous projects, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that this will take place aboard Hudson River Park's Pier 62 Carousel on October 23, 24 & 25 (moved from Oct 2-4). Told through songs from Music Tapes, Night, Janitor, Carousel tells the story of Koster's seriocomic alter ego, The Janitor, who has to clean the carousel in solitary at night. The Janitor combats loneliness and boredom through hallucinatory daydreams in an immersive theatrical experience, allowing the audience to join in on The Janitor's wild imagination.

Koster says of the character:

He ran away, and had all this knowledge and skill to clean and not much else, and he ended up being a janitor because he could get a job with this craft, but he hates it. But in a weird way, he can't get away from the thing that was foisted upon him as a kid, and though he ran away, he still couldn't get away from it. Now he's confronted with it, and he has to learn to be it. He doesn't get off that easy, and he has to learn to find his way through it and conquer it, and that's a lot like life.

His loneliness is navigating him, and I feel like that navigation is just what that character is. In a lot of ways, I feel like it's like a drag queen or something in a funny way. It's a character, but it's another part of you. It wasn't so much I was deciding from the outside; it was more, "Who is this person?" His qualities just scream that he's a janitor at night and he's cleaning stuff alone. But only a little of it is in this particular play, and there's a lot of it to go around.[Gothamist]

Specifics on the shows:
Performances are 30 minutes long and while it's free, space is limited. Arrive early. The show is part of the En Garde Arts' BOSSS (Big Outdoor Site-Specific Stuff) Emerging Artists Festival. More information can be found at the Orbiting Human Circus page.

by Andrew Sacher


Jim Jarmusch mayb be best known as a filmmaker, but it's no secret that he's also a talented musician. He's got his duo with Jozef Van Wissem, and also his trio SQURL with Carter Logan (who Jim's been working on a Stooges documentary with) and Shane Stoneback (who produced Fucked Up's David Comes to Life and engineered/mixed the first two Vampire Weekend albums). SQURL did much of the music on Jim's own film, 2013's Only Lovers Left Alive, and late last year they put out EP #3.

It's four tracks of psychedelic rock and drone, and the final song actually comes kinda close to a folk song. About a month afterwards, SQURL released a cover of "Ocean" by The Velvet Underground, whose experimental art and sense of New York Cool is a clear influence on Jim Jarmusch. Listen to that cover below, and EP #3 at The Wall Street Journal.

SQURL will be taking be taking part in this year's Silent Films/Live Music series, which returns to downtown Manhattan's Brookfield Place from February 17-20. They've curated and will perform scores to four Man Ray films, and the series also features the US premiere of Blancanieves with a score performed by an ensemble featuring Neutral Milk Hotel's Julian Koster. Here's what the schedule looks like:

Tuesday, February 17 & Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 8:00pm:
Four films by Man Ray, selected by SQÜRL (Jim Jarmusch and Carter Logan) :
Retour a la Raison (1923)
Emak Bakia (1926)
Les Mysteres Du Chateau Du De (1929)
L'Etoile De Mer (1928)

World-premiere scores composed and performed by SQÜRL (Jim Jarmusch and Carter Logan)

Wednesday, February 18 & Friday, February 20, 2015 at 8:00pm:
U.S. Premiere of Blancanieves (2012)
Written and Directed by Pablo Berger
Score Composed by Alfonso Vilallonga

Performed by Wordless Music Orchestra with Alfonso Vilallonga
Ryan McAdams, conductor
Alfonso Villalonga, accordion/ukulele/banjo
Julian Koster, musical saw
All performances are totally FREE to the public. Watch the trailer for Blancanieves below.

SQURL also play Big Ears Festival and Mission Creek Festival.

Continue reading "Jim Jarmusch's SQURL released an EP & Velvet Underground cover, playing silent films series w/ Julian Koster & more"

The Music Tapes in Chicago in 2011 (more by John Yinging)
Music Tapes

Julian Koster's The Music Tapes project had been doing their Traveling Imaginary tour this year, and they've now announced that they'll do one final (and free!) week of shows in NYC from September 3-6 at 133rd St. Arts Center Lab before Julian heads on tour with his other band, Neutral Milk Hotel.

The shows include a dress rehearsal on the Tuesday (9/3) at 9 PM, a preview on the Wednesday (9/4) at 9PM, two shows (2 PM and 7:30 PM) on the Thursday (9/5), and one show at 7:30 on the Friday (9/6). Though they're free, RSVP is required, and capacity is very limited.

Check out a video of what to expect at these shows, below...

Continue reading "The Music Tapes doing a week of free, final Traveling Imaginary shows in NYC before Neutral Milk Hotel tour"

The Music Tapes

The Music Tapes, the project of Elephant 6 collective member Julian Koster (ex-Neutral Milk Hotel), released their newest album, Mary's Voice, this past September via Merge. You can check out the video for album single, "S'Alive to be Known (May We Starve)," below.

The band will be supporting the album on their Traveling Imaginary tour in 2013. For the Traveling Imaginary tour, The Music Tapes will be a circus tent in each tour stop for an "evening of songs, stories, games, movies, magic, amusements, and more. The tent was funded by their recent Kickstarter campaign.

The Traveling Imaginary tour hits NYC on February 2 at Church For All Nations for two shows that night. They also open for a few shows on Jeff Mangum's upcoming tour, including the shows at Hartford, CT's Great Hall in Union Station (2/8) and Poughkeepsie, NY's Barvadon Opera House (2/15). The dates with Jeff Mangum are not Traveling Imaginary shows though.

A list of all dates, the Traveling Imaginary trailer video, and that music video, below...

Continue reading "The Music Tapes released an LP, touring in 2013 (with and without Jeff Mangum)"

photo via Stephen Cramer
Bill Doss

A memorial service for Olivia Tremor Control's Bill Doss, who passed away on July 30, went down at the 40 Watt in Athens on August 4th. Friends and family, like Jeff Mangum, Julian Koster, Robert Schneider, Bryan Poole, Jason NeSmith, Derek Almstead, and Eric Harris, gathered to tell stories and perform songs in tribute to their Elephant 6 brother...

A slide show portrayed Doss with his family, friends and performing with band members and musicians. Others captured a combination of serious and funny portraits.

"Bill was a beautiful soul who left the world in a better state than he found it," said Jason NeSmith, lead guitarist of Casper & the Cookies. "I love him like a brother."
When a stream of performers and others who were close to Doss spoke to the gathering, they emphasized laughter, family and music.

A tearful reading of The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" started the line of conversations and acoustic performances.

Robert Schneider, lead vocalist and guitarist of Apples in Stereo, recounted the time he first met Doss. [redandblack]

Watch a 12 minute clip from the Georgia event, below...

Continue reading "watch Elephant 6 members pay tribute to Bill Doss @ 40 Watt"

Julian Koster spreads holiday cheer and offends his audience at once
Julian Koster

Business idea! Flight cases for "singing saws". Worst case scenario: you will probably have at least one customer in Julian Koster (The Music Tapes), who will need a way to protect his instruments from the elements while on the road as part of his annual Holiday Caroling Tour.

Koster's festive tour centers around caroling and spreading the holiday cheer, and you can join in at one of a few select cities.

Several houses a night will be visited in each city. Houses welcoming outside guests in each area will be listed via email auto-reply two nights prior to the Music Tapes arrival. Write musictapescaroling2011@gmail.com to receive open house list or to make a last minute caroling invitation. Routes are only projected and may change so check often!
Philly/NYC and NYC get the looks on 12/8 and 12/9 respectively. All projected dates are below.

Koster recently posted a video for "Nantasket" from the Purim's Shadows (The Dark Tours the World) EP on Merge Records. That video, one starring "badger saw", and the list of dates below...

Continue reading "Julian Koster out caroling again "

March 17th Cleveland show setlist (via To Eleven)
Elephant 6

"...This wasn't one of those shows where band after band gets up, plays for 1/2 hour, then leaves. The entire Elephant 6 Orchestra was on stage for the whole show, give or take a few members at a time who left to get beer or to just stand and watch. And they looked like they were having fun, which meant that everyone was having fun.

This wasn't just a concert, either. Occasionally, Julian Koster would stop the show to tell surrealist stories about his family (and how they carried dehydrated cities in their mouths as part of a magic trick). At one point, the band took a break so we could watch the Mechanized Organ-Playing Tower, a kind of animatronic puppet that pretended to play a keyboard. And at another point, an audience member was chosen to throw things at an inflatable Snowman. The whole thing might have screamed of "neo-hippy-fest" if it wasn't so genuine.

After solid 4 hours on stage, the band made its way back through the audience while covering Sun Ra's "Enlightenment." Some of us followed the band like they were psychedelic pied pipers heading out the door. And I say us because by the end of the show, it wasn't about how cool anyone was, or whether or not they were seen here. There was a true sense of unity that I've never felt at a show before. We were one audience, and the band was part of "us" too." [To Eleven]

That review snippet, like the above-pictured setlist, come from the 3/17 Cleveland show. The Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour hit Brooklyn last night (3/21) at Knitting Factory where they play again tonight before continuing to Manhattan for a Wednesday night show at Le Poisson Rouge. Jeff Mangum was reportedly spotted in the crowd at Knitting Factory, but he didn't perform.

A video of the Elephant 6 Orchestra covering "Let's Get It On" in Cleveland can be watched below...

Continue reading "Elephant 6 tour underway, in NY last night, tonight, tomorrow"

Elephant 6 Holiday tour 2008 (more by Lori Baily)
Elephant 6

Though the full set of dates hasn't been announced yet, it looks like the Elephant 6 collective is going on another "Holiday Surprise Tour," though this time the holiday is whatever happens in March. The NYC shows are March 22nd at Knitting Factory and March 23rd at Le Poisson Rouge. The latter lists the following:

Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour
w/ Elephant 6 orchestra featuring Will Cullen Hart, Bill Doss, Peter Erchick, John Fernandes , Julian Koster, Scott Spillane, Andrew Rieger, Laura Carter, Derek Almstead , Heather McIntosh, Bryan Poole, Theo Hilton , Robbie Cucchiaro and others play the music of The Olivia Tremor Control, Elf Power, Circulatory System, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Gerbils, Nana Grizol, Major Organ and and Adding Machine, Pipes You See, Pipes You Don't , plus games, films & other surprises
This news comes hot on the heels of Saturday's private Jeff Mangum show, and Jeff did in fact join in the fun in 2008, but of course there are no guarantees and it will be great either way. Tickets are on sale for both shows (just click the links above). Stay tuned for all dates.

Meanwhile The Music Tapes aka Julian Koster is now on his own holiday tour.

by Andrew Frisicano

The Music Tapes @ The Bell House in 2009 (more by Tim Griffin)
Music Tapes

This November and December, The Music Tapes will be bringing a comforting, enchanting, and very special evening of Music Tapes' dreamlike songs, stories and games for sleepover parties to ordinary homes across the land (US and Canada). The Music Tapes are now accepting invitations, and plan to visit over 200 homes! As with the Music Tapes' caroling and lullaby travels of years past, they will stop at several houses a night in each city visiting also far off out of the way places most tours never get to go.

The Lullaby evenings with include songs from the Music Tapes forthcoming 2011 record, as well as from Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes, The 1st Imaginary Symphony for Nomad, and The Singing Saw at Christmastime, along with new Music Tapes games and stories. The entertainment, though sometimes more exciting than lulling, are all in honor of the comforting moments directly preceding and following sleep when we find ourselves happily unsure of whether we are awake or are dreaming. [Merge]

The Music Tapes annual holiday tour is in its third year, and the small scale events that populate the route tend to be a really good time. This trip is by far the most expansive, with tour dates running from the South to the West Coast to New England and even Canada. It kicks off November 4th, and hits NYC December 19th and 20th. Koster and friends usually plan for a few stops each night, so between the two dates there's a decent chance one performance will be near you. Remember, the dates are tentative, so email the tour address before you show up for more info.

The announcement is also confirmation that the Music Tapes will have a new release in 2011 (possibly titled The 2nd Imaginary Symphony for Cloudmaking)

Complete dates and how to get in touch with the tour (and invite them to your house!) are below...

Continue reading "The Music Tapes announce 2010 holiday tour, plan for new LP"

by Andrew Frisicano

Music Tapes in Bed-Stuy Dec. 17 2009 (more by Sarah Mulligan)
The Music Tapes

Julian Koster and The Music Tapes will be delivering lullabies at bedsides from bedroom to bedroom, and house to house in Boston, New York and Philadelphia in August. Featuring new songs as well as some of the gentler songs from Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes and the 1st Imaginary Symphony for Nomad, lucky hosts will be visited at the bedtime hour by the most lulling of music tapes songs, by the sounds of the glowing and enchanting "Ghost Orchestra," Singing Saws, Stories, and so forth.[Merge]
Similar to their annual holiday caroling tour (though on a less-road-intensive scale), Julian & the Music Tapes will be visiting houses and apartments in Boston, New York and Philadelphia this August. In each city, they'll also be playing a game of "St. Nikolai the Wonder Worker's Wishing Game of Candles" at a secret location.

The 2009 Holiday Tour packed a number of New York stops into two days. Check out our long-lost review/post on those below.

Dates and info on how to invite the tour (and get invited) are below too....

Continue reading "the Music Tapes will deliver lullabies to a lucky few (dates)"

DOWNLOAD: Julian Koster - White Chistmas (MP3)
DOWNLOAD: Julian Koster - Jingle Bells (MP3)

Julian Koster @ Bell House in March (more by Tim Griffin)
Music Tapes

Music Tapes' Julian Koster is on the road with his 2009 Caroling Tour, which kicked off Saturday, December 5th in Georgia. The revised schedule for the trip is posted below. Its NYC portion will be happening on December 16th and 17th. E-mail musictapescaroling@gmail.com to get on the list for the exact location and time of the shows. For more info (including a note about posting things online about the shows) and to offer financial support, visit orbitinghumancircus.org.

Two Xmas tracks off Koster's The Singing Saw at Christmastime are posted above.

Another holiday happening that's already underway is "Eternal Christmas: A Yuletide Dreamland", an art exhibit/show space presented by Flaming Fire at 525 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn. It began over the weekend (12/4) and runs through January 5th (12-8 daily, 12-11 Thurs-Sun, $5 suggested donation). The art work tackles "the mythological and cultural roots of the winter season." The installations' "house band" will be Brooklyn's Lydsod, and the schedule includes a performance by Dewanatron (who opened for Music Tapes in March). More info is below.

Both schedules and Julian Koster singing saw videos are below...

Continue reading "Julian Koster now on a caroling tour +++ "Eternal Christmas: A Yuletide Dreamland" is open on Atlantic Ave"

by Andrew Frisicano

DOWNLOAD: Naza Grizol - For Things That Haven't Come (MP3)
DOWNLOAD: Julian Koster - Jingle Bells (MP3)

Nana Grizol @ Cake Shop
Nana Grizol

T.O. Snob: Most of the press material I've seen points out connections between the band and Neutral Milk Hotel, Elf Power, and other Elephant 6 groups. Based on that association do people approach Nana Grizol's music with certain expectations? If so, what do you believe they are?

Nana Grizol's Theo Hilton: I don't know... I guess we share some personnel with those groups in particular, and pretty much all of us were part of the latest incarnation of the Music Tapes; I love those folks and I feel like in a lot of ways we're going for the same things with our music. I guess what I'd say is that it's so nice to have a LOT of friends who are really fun to collaborate with on musical projects. I don't feel like we personally go out of our way to affiliate or disaffiliate ourselves with any organized collectives or anything, not that Elephant 6 is an organized collective. I just really want to play music with my friends! And share cool weird experiences with them!! I don't think people approach our band with any specific expectations, at least I don't know what they could be, but if anyone decided to check out our band because they like our friends band, and they like our band, then great!

Athens band Nana Grizol's tour was in town on November 8th for a show at Cake Shop. Even with ex-Neutral Milk Hotel members Laura Carter and Robbie Cucchiaro in the band and Jeff Mangum in the audience, it'd be a mistake to overemphasize the "Elephant 6"-ness of the show. The band is really Theo Hilton's gig, and as a songwriter he has his own direct, personal style. The band too has an urgency about it, with insistent melodies and rotating instruments (that pair up occasionally as double drums and double trumpets). The new album, Ruth, was present in the set list and at the merch table. The above song "For Things That Haven't Come," listed on the setlist as "Ginsburg" maybe for obvious reasons, is characteristic of their basement pop vibe (or maybe farm house pop as the case may be).

Nana Grizol's current tour continues through November 20th. More pictures from the NYC show and the set list are below.

Music Tapes ringleader Julian Koster (a member of Neutral Milk Hotel who wasn't at Cake Shop last week) will be coming around again this holiday season for an apartment/house tour. Currently the tour runs from December 7th to December 21st with the proposed NYC stops happening toward the end of the trip. But only if you invite them to play - and don't think they won't. Julian & Badger (his saw) unbelievably showed up at my place last year for a short set of songs before disappearing into the night. Even if they don't visit you, you can e-mail for the tour's location in your town. Details on how to do that are below. A track from his The Singing Saw at Christmastime is posted above, with the rough itinerary below...

Continue reading "Nana Grizol played Cake Shop (pics), Julian Koster caroling again in December (invite him to your house)"

by Andrew Frisicano

DOWNLOAD: Circulatory System - Overjoyed (MP3)

Circulatory System (Nesey standing, left)...
Circulatory System

Pure Pop: It seems like the E6 Collective is making a big comeback. The Holiday Suprise Tour, the Music Tapes' caroling tour, [the Music Tapes' regular tour,] Circulatory System's new album [see below] -- it's all really exciting. What's it like to be right in the middle of all this? Do you see great things in E6's future?

Nesey Gallons: yes, i do. and its nice to have had a hand in making things happen. that it all worked. and its been an honor to play with everyone and have brer hart ask me to finish his album and everything. its beautiful to see everyone together doing what they ought to, building worlds. im sure a lot of wonderful things will come drifting out of what has reawoken. in the coming year i plan to live in maine and work on a bunch of projects and things ive neglected during this past year. for some reason i have to be alone to really work properly on anything of my own.

Like much of the Elephant 6-connected material, the new Circulatory System album, Signal Morning, is a collaborative effort (as is the upcoming tour, more on that in sec). First, the album, headed by Oliva Tremor Control's W. Cullen Hart, features contributions from all the members of that band as well as Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum and Julian Koster. It comes out on CD and MP3 September 8th through Cloud Recordings. For vinyl, you'll have to wait a little longer, but when they ship in October, the first 300 will come with a bonus LP of demo versions and alternate mixes. Check out a track from the record, above.

The Circulatory System tour this September will host opening acts Pipes You See, Pipes You Don't (the side project of Olivia Tremor Control keyboardist Peter Erchick) and Nesey Gallons (the E6 regular interviewed above). Nesey visited NYC recently, playing banjo with Music Tapes in March and appearing on the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise tour last fall (with Circ. System's Hart and many others).

Those three acts will play NYC's (Le) Poisson Rouge on Wednesday, September 9th. Tickets are on sale now.

A few days later, Circulatory System plays ATP NY.

Nesey also has an album of his own, Eyes & Eyes & Eyes Ago, that's coming out digitally September 8th (October 20th for vinyl) on Hurrah for Karamazov Records. See preview videos for that album, with Circulatory System's album art and tracklist and all tour dates, below...

Continue reading "Circulatory System - new CD (Jeff Mangum) & tour dates w/ Nesey Gallons & Pipes You See, Pipes You Don't (LPR, ATP) "

by Andrew Frisicano

Mac and Britt embrace (Triangle Music)
Mac and Britt

The much anticipated XX Merge Festival took place last week in North Carolina with a five-day (July 22-July 26), Wednesday to Sunday run of shows. Last night (Sunday)'s show with She & Him, American Music Club and Wye Oak was the only fully announced lineup. The other four nights (and one day) were a grab bag of any number of Merge bands past and present. Did you go? What were the highlights?

Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band, who recently played a pair of big NY shows, headlined the fest's first night (which also included Magnetic Fields). Superchunk, which features Merge founders Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan, topped the bill of the second night. The third night included the reformed/reunited lineups of Spent, Polvo and Pipe.

Mac McCaughan came out on stage before [Pipe] instead of the night's emcee and announced that there was a lone protester outside. He invited him up on stage and it was Jon Wurster decked out in Phillies gear as Philly Boy Roy. He was holding a sign that said "Boycot MERGE." He complained that Merge didn't have any Philly bands on their roster and Mac said that they have bands from Jersey, which is close to Philly. You never compare Jersey to Philly in front of Philly Boy Roy. It was hilarious.

All of this led to the introduction of New Jersey punks Pipe. As soon as they kicked into their first song, beer cans and plastic bottles started flying. Frontman Ron Liberti ate it up and even put himself in the line of fire, headbutting some of the cans while kicking some back into the crowd. Liberti bounded around the stage, essentially taunting the crowd. The crowd loved the band's antics as did I (but that may have been different if I hadn't managed to stay dry). [triangle music]

You can see the partial setlist from Spoon, who headlined that night, below.

In addition to the Cat's Cradle shows (the venue for 4/5 of the night shows), Saturday featured a day show that included Julian Koster solo as Music Tapes and Mac McCaughan with violin accompaniment as Portastatic. A few videos from that set, below.

M. Ward, who's playing the Central Park Summerstage this Saturday (August 1st), played at the fest's Saturday night showcase. Zooey Deschanel joined him for a cover of the Beatles' "Birthday." Not too big of a surprise considering She & Him headlined the Sunday night show.

Other XX Merge artists who recently stopped in NYC include The Clientele and Richard Buckner (they played Music Hall of Williamsburg last Sunday), Versus and Superchunk (they played South Street Seaport last Friday), and Spent (they played Coco 66). Spoon didn't play a NYC show, but they were spotted in the audience of Paul McCartney's third of three shows at Citi Field in Queens. Destroyer is on his way up. He plays Bowery Ballroom on Thursday. Mark Eitzel (as American Music Club) played Le Poisson Rouge and Maxwell's before XX Merge, and now he's on his way back for a show at The Bell House.

Lineups for each night of XX Merge, with videos, and a bunch of setlists, below...

Continue reading "Merge celebrated their 20th w/ 5 days of shows in North Carolina (lineups, reviews, pics, video setlists...)"

photos by Chris La Putt

DOWNLOAD: Bowerbirds - In Our Talons (MP3)

Bowerbirds @ Mercury Lounge

Bowerbirds, La Strada, Lost in the Trees and Bell played the Mercury Lounge on Monday, April 27th (one night before Bell and Bowerbirds played Monkey Town).

Not to get all TMZ, but according to Indy Week Blogs (who got all TMZ)...

Throughout the evening, a trickle of excited correspondence from members of both bands announced that a special guest had come to watch Bowerbirds' set [at Mercury Lounge]: Neutral Milk Hotel leader/ de facto hermit/ "Salinger of indie rock" Jeff Mangum. There's, of course, little to report about the appearance besides just that--no collaborations, no serious hangouts. Mangum just watched and, between songs, held his beer between his teeth to clap. Maybe he'll come down to Chapel Hill later this year?
...which brings us to the carousel. Julian Koster and Jeff Mangum ("on behalf of Neutral Milk Hotel") are working to save the Paragon Carousel in Hull, MA. You can help. Details below.

Bowerbirds' second disc, Upper Air, comes out July 7th on Dead Oceans who said:

"Everyone struggles when they try to describe this music, including us, but we'll try: it has the spirit of Richard and Linda Thompson, the currency of Devendra Banhart, the addictively sweet melodicism of Iron & Wine, but it churns with an underlying energy closer to a Beirut or something farther out, more raw, more wild."
Bowerbirds are currently on tour with La Strada. The Neutral Milk Hotel note, more pictures from Mercury Lounge (including one of the setlist), and all tour dates, below...

Continue reading "Bowerbirds played Mercury Lounge (pics) w/ La Strada (more dates) for Jeff Mangum (who wants to save a carousel)"

by Andrew Frisicano

The Music Tapes @ a CMJ show (more by Kyle Dean Reinford)
Music Tapes

The Music Tapes played Maxwell's in Hoboken on Sunday (3/1), and for those who missed the criminally under attended show (maybe something to do with the weather), you're in luck - they'll be back in town on Tuesday (tonight, 3/3) playing the Bell House with the same lineup of opening acts: musical mad scientist Brian Dewan and upbeat Elephant 6-ers Nana Grizol. Tickets are still available, and we're giving away a pair of tickets. Details below.

For the show at Maxwell's, I trekked through the blowing snow to arrive in Hoboken, a place that seems to have frozen in time the most picturesque parts of every U.S. small town. Inside the show space, hidden past the club's front restaurant-bar area, 40-50 brave concertgoer gathered around the stage, where second-act Nana Grizol rocked with warming exuberance. (I missed opener Brian Dewan - more on him later, though.)

Nana Grizol's eight-strong lineup crammed the stage, which was crowded with 7-Foot Tall Metronome and Static the Singing TV standing at attention for the upcoming Music Tapes set. But first, the Athens, GA, band shared songs and swapped instruments, which included guitar, bass, and two drum sets. One member switched from clarinet to trumpet to melodica with ease. The horn section expanded into three trumpet harmonies, then contracted to a single euphonium. The bulk of the songs were fronted by Theo Hilton, who sang with a kind of Promise Ring innocence in his voice. The roaring, clanking sound convinced me to shell out for a copy of their 2008 Orange Twin recording, Love It Love It.

Between bands, opener Brian Dewan set up a projector and screened a short film so good it made me wish I trudged out sooner to catch his solo set. The hand-drawn animated slides that populated the film told a short history of civic pride, coyly poking fun at the structures of society by connecting scenes of Aztec ritual sacrifice, paying taxes, and odious parking meters into a modern parable that paid homage to archaic public service videos. Each frame change was announced with a studious "plonk."

Shortly after, The Music Tapes took the stage, borrowing most of Nana Grizol's members (or maybe vice-versa). Julian Koster, as always, fronted the band with a banjo and saw. Elephant 6-regular Nesey Gallons also played banjo - in all, a lot of the Elephant 6 holiday tour seemed to be on board. On "Aliens," Dewan even joined the band, playing one of his homemade Melody Gins, a knob-covered oscillator contraption.

Koster played many of the same songs he did at the band's Mercury Lounge CMJ show: "Freeing Song for Reindeer," "Majesty," "Song for Oceans Falling," "Orchestra's Orchestration" and "What the Television Tells Us" (the latter two with props). A number of the songs started with just Koster and ended in double-drums, double-distorted banjo noise. On "Song for the Death of Parents," Koster played percussion by bouncing a kickball on a soup kettle with a microphone hidden underneath in a perfect melding of theme and medium.

Julian came into the crowd to play a singing-saw version of "The First Noel" and a song on his tiny electric organ, before returning to the stage and closing the show with "Manifest Destiny." (He also promised to play a crowd game with bells on Tuesday at the Bell House.)

Live, The Music Tapes continue to be one of the most consistently entertaining bands around. The scratchy, distorted sound of its recordings (can a singing saw's sound actually be recorded?), while interesting, drastically understates the buoyant joy and enigmatic energy of Koster and Co. in person.

Besides at tonight's Bell House show, New Yorkers can catch Brian Dewan when he performs a free set with his homemade-instrument project, Dewanatron (with cousin Leon), at the opening of Pierogi Gallery (177 N 9th St, Brooklyn) on Saturday, March 7, 9pm.

Video and contest details below...

Continue reading "The Music Tapes, Brian Dewan & Nana Grizol played Maxwell's (review) -- Bell House TONIGHT (win tix)"

The Music Tapes @ Mercury Lounge (more Kyle Dean Reinford)
Music Tapes

The Music Tapes, aka Julian Koster, "the 7 Foot Tall Metronome, Static the Television and other human bandmembers", are hitting the road again in February. Julian was last here in NYC to sing some Christmas carols, and before that during CMJ, and before that for the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour. Next he'll be here on March 1st to play Maxwell's in Hoboken (TICKETS), and then two days later again at the Bell House in Brooklyn (TICKETS). All dates below...

Continue reading "The Music Tapes - 2009 Tour Dates (Maxwell's, Bell House)"

words & photos by Natasha Ryan

A Hawk and a Hacksaw

The duo from New Mexico quietly emerged from the side of the stage and began playing to each other in the middle of the floor. The giddy audience started snapping photos and wondered out loud, "are they going to do the whole set here?" After the second song the band made their way on stage and Jeremy Barnes (ex-Neutral Milk Hotel and one half of A Hack and a Hacksaw) shared his enthusiasm for the brand new accordion he'd just purchased earlier that day. The pulsing, frantic Balkan sounds of the duo transformed the entire room into fluctuations of silent awe and pandemonium. Barnes was an eight-armed beast, hitting cymbals and playing percussion while attacking the accordion. Heather Trost broke a string towards the end of the set, but pulled on it for some interesting effects. the occasional shrieks in a definitively instrumental set elevated the hypnotizing beats to the climatic point of the night, and the set ended as suddenly as it began. - Natasha Ryan
Zach Condon was nowhere to be found, but Jeremy's old bandmate Jeff Mangum was reportedly there to take in the show by A Hawk and A Hacksaw Saturday night at Mercury Lounge (1/10). Someone else said they also saw Julian Koster.

It was one of two shows AHAAH played in NYC this weekend. The second was last night (Sunday, January 11th) at Union Hall in Brooklyn. More pictures from Mercury Lounge below...

Continue reading "A Hawk and A Hacksaw @ Mercury Lounge, NYC - pics "

by Andrew Frisicano

Julian Koster & friends in a NYC apartment

The European-folk-music-influenced duo of ex-Neutral Milk Hotel drummer Jeremy Barnes and violinist Heather Trost, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, is set to play two upcoming NYC shows - January 10th at Mercury Lounge (tix), with Great Lake Swimmers, and January 11th at Union Hall (tix).

Hawk and HacksawBarnes didn't turn out for the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise tour earlier this winter, and so far these are A Hawk and a Hacksaw's only announced 2009 dates.

With H&H, there's always the possibility of a Beirut-related appearance, as they've worked & toured together, and are on the same label (Badabing. There's even video evidence of previous collabs (see below). Zach Condon recently appeared unannounced at an Inlets show, and Beirut are playing three NYC shows in February (ahem, for now).

Christmas treeIn other NMH-stalking news - a while back BV reported that the Music Tapes Caroling tour would be making its way north from Georgia through New York to Maine playing living rooms and houses along the route. Fans were encouraged to invite "Julian and his friends" to their house. I [Andrew] did so, and strangely enough, on December 13th, Julian, Rudolph (dog) and Badger (musical saw) stopped by at my place with a few other friends in tow for a set of saw-sung carols, fantasical stories and a couple Music Tapes banjo tunes - all performed solo next to the Christmas tree. Even with the show's short notice - I'd just gotten an email that morning with details - about ten to fifteen fans showed up for the event. After the set, Julian paused for a few snapshots (see above) and left as quickly as he had came - I unfortunately wasn't able to follow the traveling party to the next apartment. Jesse Jarnow, contributer to the Voice, attended and wrote up the event on that blog.

Julian was recently featured on NPR's Morning Edition, which commented that The Singing Saw at Christmastime's layered saws "capture just a bit of bone-chilling terror -- just right for these uncertain times." On Christmas day, Julian and friends gave an interview and performed live for NPR's World Cafe. If you missed it, you can listen to it now at their site.

In addition to the date above, Great Lake Swimmers are also playing the Bell House in Brooklyn January 9th (tix) with Haley Bonar & Daniel Martin Moore, and a Feburary 7th date in Guelph, Ontario, near their home base of Toronto, for the Hillside Festival.

Video of Beirut playing with Hawk & A Hacksaw, and all dates, below...

Continue reading "Julian Koster came caroling, A Hawk and a Hacksaw & Great Lake Swimmers are playing shows "

by Andrew Frisicano

DOWNLOAD: Julian Koster - Jingle Bells (MP3)

Rosie Thomas
Rosie Thomas

Earlier this year, Seattle songwriter Rosie Thomas, who has collaborated with friends Damien Jurado, David Bazan and Sufjan Stevens in the past, again rounded up family and friends to put together A Very Rosie Christmas, a holiday-themed album that mixes traditional songs and covers (Peanuts' classic "Christmastime Is Here" for one) with originals like "Why Can't It Be Christmastime All Year" - a rolling indie-pop singalong truely worthy of release on Thomas' own Sing-a-long Records label. Check out the song in the video below.

Rosie's pair of NYC shows - tonight, December 2nd, at the Living Room (TICKETS) and tomorrow, December 3rd, at the Bell House in Brooklyn (TICKETS) - should be a welcome respite from long evenings locked on WCBS-FM's all-holiday programming. All tour dates below.

Thomas writes that the full band accompanying her includes "my brother Brian Thomas, Josh Myers, Andrew Rudd and my fella Jeffrey Shoop! My friend Sheila Saputo will be coming along too, opening the shows every night for us with her gift of Christmas cheer!" Read Rosie's favorite Christmas memories on her blog..

Singing SawAnother upcoming holiday-music event, The Music Tapes Caroling Tour, has a NYC visit scheduled for December 13th and 14th. Details are scarce but reports from the tour's earlier dates indicate that interested parties who emailed or wrote The Music Tapes in advance should be getting an email the day of with details as to a location. Someone, expect a knock from Juliian Koster between 6pm and 9pm, caroling hours...

Merge recently released Julian Koster's The Singing Saw at Christmastime (click for a preview). MP3 above. Video below...

Almost a Full MoonCanadian major label singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Hawksley Workman is a pretty big deal up North (and in Europe); yet in the States, both his 2008 releases - Between the Beautifuls and Los Manlicious - are import-only...as is Hawksley's amazing 2001 album of Christmas originals called Almost a Full Moon, which features eight (re-released in 2002 with ten) quirky-but-not-cloying cabaret-esque Christmas/winter odes. It's been a annual favorite of mine since finding it a few years ago. Last Friday, Workman and band opened a show at Toronto's Massey Hall with the album's title track. This Friday, December 5th, he plays Joe's Pub as part of the venue's 10th anniversary celebration. Tickets are currently still available. All tour dates and a video below...

For more holiday events, check out our Hanukkah post. For some free tunes, check out our 2007 Holiday Mix, and stay tuned for more holiday-music announcements.

Videos and tour dates below...

Continue reading "Rosie Thomas, The Music Tapes, Hawksley Workman - Christmas shows, albums, videos & stuff"

photos by Kyle Dean Reinford, words by Andrew Frisicano

The Music Tapes

I was running late to the Merge showcase Saturday night (10/25), but luckily caught The Music Tapes in the middle the fantastic rendition of "An Orchistration's Overture," a duet between frontman Julian Koster and a TV-headed robot (who appeared on stage across from a 7-foot wooden metronome). The Music Tapes songs sounded great live, with support from a 3-piece horn section, accordian, banjo and, of course, singing saw (featured exclusively on The Singing Saw at Christmastime). On "Song for the Death of Parents," Julian played a bouncing ball as percussion; other late-set tunes included "Aliens," "Songs for Oceans Falling," and, as the closer, a solo performance of "Manifest Destiny."

Julian mentioned afterward that the band might return to NYC in February. As of now, the Music Tapes are tentatively scheduled for a local December 12 stop on their Christmas caroling tour. The NYC date is listed as "game only," which may indicate some kind of secret show, like the one held in Central Park last year (as discussed on the Elephant 6 Message Board). See below for full info on how to get your carol on, or look for updates at Orbiting Human Circus.

The Music Tapes' last NYC show (before this CMJ one) was part of the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise tour at Knitting Factory. More CMJ pictures (and those caroling dates) below...

Continue reading "The Music Tapes - Merge CMJ pics, a Christmas caroling tour"

Jeff Mangum plays in Pittsburgh on October 18, 2008 (Hughshows)

Neutral Milk Hotel was performed with Jeff Mangum on vocals last night in Pittsburgh....

Continue reading "Jeff Mangum sang NMH's 'Engine' in Pittsburgh (VIDEO)"

Photos by Lori Baily

Elephant 6

Yes, Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum appeared, but as someone pointed out, that was just five minutes of of a 2.5 hour Elephant 6 collective show that also included two other members of Neutral Milk Hotel, one of whom (Julian) also performed at The Music Tapes. There were also NMH's Scott Spillane and members of Olivia Tremor Control (and OTC songs) plus "Circulatory System, Gerbils, Elf Power, Nana Grizol, Nesey Gallons" and more...

have to agree that the show was overall pretty amazing...a little unfortunate that mangum didn't do any of his own songs, but it was a great surprise for him to even be there...he did seem quite pissed off in general though and especially when he was trying ot tussle with the big guy on stage...but what do i know....the one guy peaking/tweaking out on stage talking to himself was kinda weird..yea that afraid song was really good as well as the first song mangum came out for with the tuba...also really thought the drummer with the curly hair did some nice ones too... [anonymous]
More pictures from Saturday night's show below...

Continue reading "Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise (people who aren't Jeff Mangum) @ Knitting Factory, NYC - pics"

photos by Chris Graham

DOWNLOAD: Portastatic - Some Small History (MP3)
DOWNLOAD: Julian Koster - Jingle Bells (MP3)

Superchunk @ Bumbershoot - Sept 1, 2008

Saturday 10/25/2008
Merge Records CMJ Showcase @ Mercury Lounge, NYC w/
* The Music Tapes
* Wye Oak
* Portastatic
* The Broken West
* The Rosebuds
* Oakley Hall
That's a great lineup for Mercury Lounge. No advanced tickets, approximately 150 tickets sold at the door, and another 100 go to CMJ badgeholders.

The Music Tapes (Julian Koster)'s new album is out on Merge this week. The Singing Saw At Christmastime (from whence the above Chrismas MP3 came) is out October 7th. He/they'll also be touring before CMJ as part of Elephant 6's Holiday Surprise Tour. One day Elephant 6, the next Merge - lots of sleeping around, kind of like...

...Conor Oberst whose new self-titled album is out now on Merge (and not on Saddle Creek or Team Love- two labels he founded). Conor's tour dates are HERE.

Wye Oak, another band that recently came out with an album on Merge (and is playing the showcase) are on tour as we speak. They're next Brooklyn show happens before September is over.

The Rosebuds will be playing at least one more show during CMJ, probably with the Ladybug Transistor who aren't on the Merge showcase, but could be. The Rosebuds' new album Life Like is out October 7th and some of the new songs are streaming at MySpace.

The Broken West, in addition to October 25th, are also playing Mercury Lounge on September 21st. That earlier show has them opening for Bobby Bare Jr. Tickets are on sale. Their new album Now or Heaven is out this week. All tour dates below.

The Broken West will also bid a fond farewell to drummer, Rob McCorkindale. A new baby and other family commitments have made Rob's departure necessary, but everyone will miss him! Sean McDonald will take over the skins and join Dan, Brian, Ross and Jeff on the road this fall.
Oakley Hall is playing Webster Hall on September 24th with Calexico.

Though not playing the CMJ show, Lambchop shares that MErge affiliation. Kurt Wagner (Mr Lambchop) plays Joe's Pub on October 8th. OH (Ohio) is out October 10th.

You can now subsribe to SCORE! Merge Records: The First 20 Years.

And last but not least you'll notice that one of Mac (Mr. Merge himself)'s bands is on this Mercury Lounge CMJ bill too. Portastatic has a 2-CD compilation of singles (covers included) coming out this week. The entire "Some Small History" tracklist is below.... right under the rest of the pictures (and a rough setlist) from Superchunk's set at the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle on Labor Day.....

Continue reading "Merge's CMJ Showcase, Broken West tour dates, new Portastatic, Superchunk Bumbershoot pics & more"

by Andrew Frisicano

Nesey Gallons
Nesey Gallons

Julian Koster (NMH), William Cullen Hart (Olivia Tremor Control), Scott Spillane (NMH), Laura Carter (Elf Power), Eric Harris (Elf Power), Nesey Gallons and many more [along with The Singing Saw, the 7 Foot Tall Metronome, Static the Television and many others] will join together as a traveling variety show this October. Julian describes the evenings as "a big orchestra, variety show, silly happy thing." The large gathering of Elephant 6 members will be playing the music of The Music Tapes, Circulatory System, Scott Spillane, Gerbils, Elf Power, Olivia Tremor Control, Nana Grizol, Nesey Gallons and more...
The 13-date "holiday surprise tour" will swing by the Knitting Factory in Manhattan (before it moves to Brooklyn in January) on October 11th. Tickets are on sale.

The tour also marks the debut of the "Major Organ and the Adding Machine" short film, directed by Joey Foreman and Eric Harris. The film will screen at the beginning of each show on the Holiday tour.

The film is currently being submitted to film festivals and will be coming out as a CD/DVD set in the Fall of 2009. Accompanying the Orange Twin DVD Edition will be the expanded version of the film's soundtrack, originally released in early 2000, that includes several unreleased bonus tracks and illuminating new liner notes by co-director Harris. The film and album stand as the consummate collaboration of the Elephant 6 collective, and feature musical and theatrical contributions from Jeff Mangum, Kevin Barnes, William Cullen Hart, Julian Koster, Andrew Reiger, Dixie Blood Moustache and all and sundry who participated in the hypercreative halcyon days of late-90's Athens, Georgia
Mangum-spotters can take note that past sightings have occured at various Elephant 6 NYC shows: Mangum sang briefly withOlivia Tremor Control at the Bowery in August 2005, with Elf Power in November of the same year at the Knitting Factory, and then with the Instruments at the Cake Shop in 2006.
Also, generally mysterious leader of Neutral Milk Hotel Jeff Mangum is said to be in the movie as well; although he is dressed in a lobster suit so it could possibly be anybody. [Wikipedia]
Music TapesPost-tour, Julian Koster (of NMH, Major Organ, Oliva Tremor Control) and others is scheduled to return to NYC with The Music Tapes on October 25th to play the Merge CMJ Showcase at Mercury Lounge (the rest of that lineup TBA). The band just released Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes, and Koster is set to release The Singing Saw at Christmastime (currently streaming at Merge) on October 6th.

Elephant 6-ers Of Montreal will also visit NYC at the Roseland Ballroom October 10th as part of their tour supporting the forthcoming LP, Skeletal Lamping. (There's a listening party tonight - Sept 8 for the album in Portland, OR). Kevin Barnes also appears in the movie.

All tour dates and the "Major Organ" trailer (and cast listing), below....

Continue reading "Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour, Music Tapes + Major Organ and the Adding Machine - film, Merge, 2008 Tour Dates"