Neutral Milk Hotel multi-instrumentalist and Music Tapes frontman Julian Koster has sent out a request for fans to help save an 81-year-old carousel that needs some repairs. The National Trust for Historic Preservation will be awarding funding to a number of sites in the Greater Boston area, but the winner of a public vote is guaranteed to receive a grant.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where the great whirling contraptions of mechanical music and light are not as profitable to operate as other things, and carousels are worth much more taken apart and sold in pieces to museums, where one must pay to look at them behind glass, rather than having them simply existing in the world that we now all share.
I spoke with Jeff and Scott and Jeremy about this and they agreed that I should, on behalf of Neutral Milk Hotel, make an appeal to the good people who might have enjoyed the music made over the years, because we think you’d understand especially, and want to help.
Those dudes certainly love their “whirling contraptions,” so you can see why they’d support something like this. Then again, instead of asking internerds to vote online, maybe they oughtta just get the band back together and play a fundraiser!
I mean, I love merry-go-rounds as much as the next guy, but it’s sort of hard to suggest that the Paragon Carousel is more historically important than the Paul Revere House or the Perkins School for the Blind, but whatever. You can vote once a day through May 17 once you hand over an email address (verification not required).
Remember when you used to have to wait until after Thanksgiving to hear your favorite Christmas carols? Not anymore. Many radio stations across the country switched to an all holiday format after Halloween this year. And who can blame them? People love Christmas music.
But it’s easy to get tired of the same old versions of the same old songs performed by the same old singers. It’s a rare treat to hear someone take a standard and make it their own. But that’s exactly what Julian Koster does on The Singing Saw at Christmastime. You’ve heard all these songs before, hundreds of times (“Frosty the Snowman,” “White Christmas”), but they’ve never sounded like this.
The first time you hear the sound of a singing saw you might assume it’s a weird electronic synthesizer, maybe a Theremin or an early Moog. It’s a weird, otherworldly sound that conjures images of Martians frolicking on their spaceship. Not overtly creepy, but strange and disconcerting. Which makes it perfect for Christmas music, of course…if you’re a little twisted.
National Public Radio is streaming the Elephant 6 Orchestra’s Chicago concert (GLONO review) in almost all of its 3-hour glory. A few songs, including Jeff Mangum’s “Engine” have been “omitted at the artist’s request.” There’s also a slideshow and an interview with Music Tapes/Neutral Milk Hotel multi-instrumentalist/tour organizer, Julian Koster:
“We’ve been spending some really nice time together,” Koster said of his former Neutral Milk Hotel bandmates. “I don’t think any of us knows what’s going to happen. But we never did, and that’s probably the best indication that something really nice might happen. We’re all awfully excited to see each other, and we’re all excited to make things together. So who knows what can happen?”
The Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour at the Bottom Lounge
Chicago, October 21, 2008
Several songs into the encore, I wormed my way in and a lot of people had split by then, so I had an okay spot. Jeff Mangum finally came back out with Julian Koster, Robert Schneider, and those Olivia Tremor Control dudes and sang an acoustic, meditative chant that went, “We will live forever and you know it’s true, you know it’s true.” I got the first minute of it on video.
It was nice. Pretty and hopeful. And to see those dudes up there with their arms around each other was genuinely touching. They all seemed happy to be there.
They got the crowd singing along, and then they walked off the stage with the crowd still singing. They walked into the middle of the crowd, right by me. I could’ve grabbed Mangum by the ears and yelled, “Where the fuck have you BEEN, man?” But instead I just stood there and said, “Woo.” But when Robert Schneider, the producer of all the best recordings from that whole gang, walked by, I leaned in and said, “Thanks for all the great records.” He smiled and shouted back, “Yeah!”
The first time they pulled out this ten-year-old b-side was in Pittsburgh (video after the jump…), and in some ways it’s refreshing that the irreverent crowd didn’t shut the fuck up while Mangum played his first live Neutral Milk Hotel song since a one-off show in New Zealand in 2001 (flyer, setlist).