Tiny Desk

The Music Tapes

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26 min 11 sec

Somewhere inside the body of Julian Koster — the Elephant 6 and Neutral Milk Hotel alumnus who once released an entire album of Christmas songs performed on a singing saw — lives a 13-year-old boy filled with wonder, imagination and a talent for spinning a good, quirky tale. Just in time for the holidays, and with the season in mind, Koster and his friends brought those wide-eyed songs and earnest spirit to the NPR Music offices for a joyful and strange Tiny Desk Concert performance.

Collectively known as The Music Tapes, they mixed bowed banjos and singing saws with tape machines, a chord organ and a crooning snowman to create a psychedelic holiday music pageant. Whether it's the traditional "The First Noel" (scored here for two musical saws) or a reworking of Gavin Bryars' avant garde piece "Jesus Blood," or even their venture into Santa songs, there's no one else playing holiday music quite like this. That is, unless you're a band of 13-year-olds with very vivid imaginations.

Set List
  • "The First Noel"
  • "Freeing Song For Reindeer"
  • "Jesus Blood"
  • "Takeshi And Elijah"
  • "Zat You, Santa Claus?"

Filmed and edited by Michael Katzif; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Cristina Fletes

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