Spun out of the wobbly orbit that once surrounded Neutral Milk Hotel, The Music Tapes is a project commanded by Julian Koster and an array of instruments and contraptions that he's either built, transformed, or somehow just summoned for a sound devoted to a strange, messy magic. Parts of Music Tapes For Clouds And Tornadoes were recorded with a "1930s Webster Chicago wire recorder" and a contemporaneous RCA ribbon microphone, and the self-made instruments used include the "7 Foot Tall Metronome" and "The Clapping Hands," both of which look like giant toys from a stately old children's book. The songs they serve are decidedly childlike and raw: In the introductory "Saw Ping Pong And Orchestra," Koster howls over warbly strings that lend unlikely drama to the shout-out-to-clouds line "Nimbus! Stratus! Cirrus!", while plaintive banjo and old organs wander into luminescent songs like "Majesty." At the core of them all is Koster's invested, angelic voice and his singing saw—a piece of old metal he makes whir like something from space, or just the spectral grooves of a 78.
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