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Wacky, Wild, Elephant 6 Style

Music Tapes
1st Imaginary Symphony For Nomad

There's something really funny about this album and it's not the fact that it was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London. It's not even that the group hauled all kinds of obscure and weird musical instruments clear across the ocean to play it. Actually, the funny thing about both of the above is that in the end, the disc still sounds like it was recorded on a cheap boombox most of the time. Yet another part of the Elephant 6 collective (along with Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, Elf Power, and others), Music Tapes are probably the wackiest of all the groups on the roster. They have elements of all the above groups, but seem to be even further out there in regards to the concept behind the album and the implementation of it.

Whether you find anything of value in the album or not is going to be determined by how much you like other groups in the strange collective. Not only does Music Tapes have the weird sound effects of Olivia Tremor Control, but they play some jangling, acoustic guitar drive tunes and often have odd bits of soundscapes and samples in-between tracks. Even though the album only runs about 40 minutes, it would take someone pages to describe all the odd bits of noises and instruments used in making the recording.

Things start out with one of the favorite instruments of wacky bands everywhere (the singing saw) on "Song For Soon To Be Sailor" before wavering-sounding (as they sound on nearly the whole release) vocals and some slight organ come in. It's a short, rather pretty track and it starts things off nicely before the group drops into a wacky, one minute track with pitch-bent vocals, tape noise, and other unidentifiable clanging.

Really, the album just gets wackier, too. On "Pulled Out To Sea..." the group mixes baby noises, radio transmissions, orchestral flourishes, and the sound of the ocean and boats (as well as vocals and other noises) together into a swirling mess of short-attention span theater. That's not to say that the group doesn't do anything song-related on the disc, because they also manage to pull off some great tracks that will have you warbling right along with them. "The Television Tells Us" is not only a rather spot-on look at todays society, but a noisy mess of a pop-nugget that works quite well while "An Orchistrations Overature" will have you alternately laughing and blaring as you contort your vocal chords to mimic the distorted vocals.

In the end, you can either look at the whole thing as a big ball of pretension or a completely wacky and fun musical experiement. The lo-fi recording quality of most of the release may be off-putting to some, but it actually manages to work pretty well in terms of fitting the mood of the release. I personally tend to to think it falls halfway between pretension and fun, as sometimes it seems like they're just trying too darn much, yet I don't know how many groups would have the sheer gusto to use a bouncing kickball as the rhythm section to a song ("Song For The Death Of Parents"). For the adventurous.

Rating: 6.5