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Preview: The Music Tapes 

Noah Bonaparte Pais on what to expect from the band coming to Howlin' Wolf May 21

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In winter 2011, to celebrate their first new music in three years, Julian Koster, Robbie Cucchiaro and friends staged the Lullaby Tour, a three-month special delivery of The Music Tapes' Purim's Shadows EP to more than 200 homes across the country, from Mountain Home, Ark., to the band's own home base in Athens, Ga. It was a customized vehicle for the enchanting, personal Purim, the 17 minutes of which were less an album than a long-form status update for the former Elephant 6 recording savant and wayward satellite: The record's fourth track, "4 (Jeff, Jill, and Julian Serenade Rudy on the Beach at Nantasket)," is 27 field-captured seconds of Koster, Jill Carnes and Neutral Milk Hotelier Jeff Mangum doing just that, while its belted-banjo closer "Nantasket" — the Tapes' best composition to date — could have been plucked from In the Aeroplane Over the Sea's overgrown, evergreen tree. Koster's bowed saw lent that 1998 classic much of its unearthly quiver, so it's only natural that the recently resurfaced Mangum haunts the Tapes' 2012 audio curio Mary's Voice (Merge), both literally (his liner-note contributions include turntable manipulation and "chair") and otherwise ("Takeshi and Elijah" shores up "Nantasket" with a dusty-room ode seemingly sung directly to Mangum). For this outsized diorama, Koster and company have staged a new spectacular: The Traveling Imaginary, an actual Big Top rife with storytelling, audience participation and odd toys both old (vintage wire recorders and ribbon mikes, mournful euphoniums and pump organs) and new (Static the Singing Television and a Shaquille O'Neal-sized metronome). Let the games begin. Tickets $12. — Noah Bonaparte Pais

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