The Music Tapes' Julian Koster returns from a self-imposed exile 

In a mere six months, The Music Tapes' Julian Koster has gone from borderline agoraphobe to a mad touring extrovert. A member of Elephant 6's psych-pop collective in the 1990s, Koster performed with Neutral Milk Hotel and released his debut full-length, "First Imaginary Symphony for a Nomad," in 1999, before retreating to a far-flung island off the coast of Maine for much of the post-millennium.

Koster will bring his new project, The Music Tapes, to Norman for a Feb. 11 show at the Opolis with Nana Grizol and Brian Dewan.

Koster's a consummate daydreamer and author of odd, wavering sound-quilts whose majestic, offbeat shimmer (produced in part by his skill with singing saws) and ramshackle lope suggest an otherworldly calliope or an alternate soundtrack to "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

Returning in August from a nine-year hiatus, "Music Tapes of Clouds and Tornadoes" might never have happened without a return trip to his old stomping grounds and the encouragement of friends who goaded the musician into finishing the record.

"The reason it took so long " and why there's probably two to three records worth of songs waiting to either be completely finished or recorded " is because I had some weird subconscious block about actually putting out a record," Koster said. "For whatever reason, I was afraid to go and interact with the real world."

A single show in Athens, Ga., beget others, and soon " after swearing off touring almost a decade ago " Koster rediscovered the joy of performing. First it was last fall's traveling E6 revue, and later, he embarked on a singing saw-caroling tour which found Koster performing at random Christmas parties across the country.

"The part of people's lives we witnessed, their home and world that we'd walk into, and the way we were welcomed in to all those worlds, was so unlike anything else," he said. "You can just come up with anything at all out of your imagination " go do it " and there are all these nice people in the world who are: a) excited to help, and b) wanted to take part in it because it's something new or different."

Koster has been passionately consumed ever since, contributing his multi-instrumental talents to several albums bubbling out of the newly resurgent Elephant 6 musician collective. Indeed, he's barely been back to Maine, and hardly misses it, instead spending his time performing and playing with his friends into all hours of the night.

"Thank God some people love me and pushed me this way, because once it's started you realize sharing things and making new things in the world with your friends, is like going out to sea with your best friend or something and taking on the whole of the ocean," Koster said. "You really feel like you're accomplishing something, instead of just hiding."

Meanwhile, he continues to add to his collection of saws from which he entices haunting warbling tones.

"It takes a lot of love and patience," he said. "Almost like raising a child " to hear them reach a point where they'll feel comfortable enough that they'll sing instantly and un-self-consciously, and get more and more on pitch."

Like Koster, they just need some coaxing. "Chris Parker

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