Julian Koster and Robbie Cucchiaro have spent the last four years bringing The Music Tapes' legendary live shows to living rooms, opera house stages, and everywhere in between-along the way garnering an ever-growing legion of devotees enthralled by the band's imaginative and uniquely affecting blend of music, magic, storytelling, and games that collapses the boundaries between pop experimentation, theater, and performance art. Mary's Voice, The Music Tapes' third full-length album, is the warmest and most accessible invitation yet into Koster's world-the culmination of a vision he has been realizing for over a decade.
That vision began taking shape in the '90s, during which time Koster also became a key member of Neutral Milk Hotel and a contributor to The Olivia Tremor Control and other legendary members of the enormously influential Elephant 6 Collective. Since then, Koster (along with long-time creative collaborator Robbie Cucchiaro on horns) has pushed the boundaries of what audiences have come to expect from an "indie rock" band-performing alongside mechanical contraptions like the 7-Foot-Tall Metronome, displaying virtuosity on both the singing saw and orchestral banjo, and staging unique caroling and lullaby tours.
Those trips have taken Koster into over 500 homes across the United States and Canda and the spirit of them infuses Mary's Voice. "The magic was in the people who would welcome us into each house," said Koster. "We would literally go from a huge mansion on a hill overlooking the Hollywood sign, to squats with a bunch of punk kids who'd made a geodesic dome covered in moldy carpet for us to do the show in and forgot to make a hole big enough for the equipment to fit in through. We played for children of all ages-from teenagers to great-grandparents. We would visit the first house at nightfall and the last sometimes not until dawn. The fun and the warmth of each stop-how absolutely unique each was while still being so deeply familiar-was amazing and taught me how much like dreaming living can be."
Mary's Voice, the follow up to 2008's acclaimed Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes, is part one of a planned two-part album and inaugurates a newly active phase in The Music Tapes' evolution-with plans to tour the world in a circus tent later this year and an NPR radio serial in the works. It was recorded with The Music Tapes' signature method of using recording machines of both past (early 1900s, '30s, '40s, '60s) and present to achieve a timeless sound. In Koster's own words: "I love sentimental melodies that you can hum with feeling. People warn against sentimentalizing or mythologizing the past. It's any failure to mythologize the present that I think we have to be afraid of. This is a miracle. You are a miracle. Our lives are magic, and our times all the more so. Music proves it."