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Wednesday, August 18, 1999

Stretching the Imagination

Posted By on Wed, Aug 18, 1999 at 12:00 AM

It all began with a 16-year-old’s wish to escape the confines of reality, to free the Willys of this world, or in this case as Music Tapes frontman, Julian, states, "I thought we’d start the Music Tapes by freeing a goldfish." And thus it ends with their debut album The 1st Imaginary Symphony for a Nomad, which is by no means everyone’s cup of tea. While the intentions are indie-cred honorable, the result is a hodgepodge of recording techniques, from cassettes, reel-to-reel, a 1940s wire recorder and an 1895 Edison wax cylinder recorder to the very-’90s computer hard drive. Add to that a little bit of compression and EQing with the original EMI desk and limiter at Abbey Road studios, and you cannot help but question whether they’re really interested in making music or proving that older technology still has value in this valueless, hypertechnological, premillennium world we inhabit.

Unfortunately, in the name of experimentation, they lose the pop sensibility and cohesion apparent in the music of Olivia Tremor Control. True, there are little gems like the very Eggslike "What the Single Made the Needle Sing" and the Hefneresque "Aliens," two tracks which hint at the potential this Merge-approved band represents. However, the gems are too few and far between and with its caution to all listeners that they risk their very lives, "A Warning" would have served better as the opening track.

Sometimes being on the edge of indie-Americana is like tempting the fates of permanent obscurity.

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