Julian Koster's ubiquitous presence on a ton of well-regarded musical projects has led to his name being synonymous with "indie rock journeyman" in D.I.Y. musician circles. As an underground multi-instrumental creative force, Koster has few peers -- keyboards, banjo, singing saw...you name it, Koster has probably cut a track with it. Beginning in high school, Koster's musical trajectory was decidedly experimental and explorative. At age sixteen he issued his first "music tape," the sprawling Second Silly Putty Symphony, starting down a long and winding road of aural pastiche that would later develop into the often collaborative Music Tapes group. Alongside the infant-stage Music Tapes, Koster's proper high-school band, Chocolate U.S.A. (formed in 1989 and renamed after their original moniker, Miss America, brought on legal action from their televised namesake), took a more pop-oriented path, ultimately leading to the formation of the musician/friend collective known as Elephant 6. With two self-released Music Tapes 7" singles in the can (1997's Please Hear Mr. Flight Control and 1998's The Television Tells Us), Koster took up with Jeff Mangum, Scott Spillane, and Jeremy Barnes for the recording of Neutral Milk Hotel's groundbreaking second album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.
In 1999 the first formal Music Tapes release was issued (by Merge) -- an archaically recorded collection of spliced and manipulated tape experiments titled First Imaginary Symphony for Nomad. On board for the project were later Elephant 6 stalwarts Brian Dewan, Robert Carter, Olivia Tremor Control's Eric Harris and Will Cullen Hart, Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum and Scott Spillane, and Of Montreal/Marshmallow Coast-er Andy Gonzales. European and U.S. tours ensued and, by the end of the decade, another Music Tapes project surfaced -- a split 7" picture disc that Koster shared with his flamenco guitarist father, Dennis. Into the 2000s, Koster kept busy with his Music Tapes-related projects, self-releasing the Brian Dewan-laden story album Second Imaginary Symphony for Cloudmaking and continuing a heavy tour schedule with various Elephant 6-related groups. In 2008, Koster collaborated again with his guitarist/father Dennis on a collection of Christmas carols, performed on the singing saw, titled The Singing Saw at Christmastime. ~ J. Scott McClintock