Jesse Jarnow

neutral milk hotel

I sometimes have a hard time expressing how important Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea remains to me. (Sometimes.) Without getting all obsessive, some links of interest:

o Some “new” old Jeff Mangum tapes have been posted online. They’re very much in the vein of the other pre-Avery Island projects that have been circulating. “How did Aeroplane happen?” people ask. The answer — as these tapes prove — is very slowly.

o Over at John Darnielle’s Last Plane to Jakarta, there’s a very thoughtful discussion about the ethics of circulating old tapes and demos, with a few chimings from the head Mountain Goat himself. Given the totally inspiring Elephant 6 enthusiasm for exchanging music, I don’t think it’s wrong to be circulating these. For that matter, I think to call them “demos” is to sell them short. Just because they were never issued on CD makes them no less important. In fact, it makes them more quintessentially E6.

o This week also sees the publication of Kim Cooper’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea volume in Continuum’s 33 1/3 series. I read it over the weekend (thanks, Wendy!), and enjoyed it quite a bit, though it’s more of a play-by-play than an attempt to channel or explain the album’s beauty. More of an emphasis on the latter, I think, would have served the former. But, hey, it’s added invaluably to the way I understand Aeroplane without robbing it of any of its mystery. In fact, I think I’ll listen to it right now.

o In the fall of 2002, Jeff Mangum hosted nine radio shows for New Jersey’s WFMU. The only way to grok their mind-bending diversity is to peep the playlists. Or, better yet, check ’em out yourself. A spoiler of sorts: episode 1 begins with one of Jeff’s rare post-Aeroplane creations, a spectacularly weird Korena Pang sound collage, “To Animate The Body With The Cocoon of the Her Unconscious Christ The Mother Removes Her Death Body of 1910 Only To Be Reborn In The Same Spirit as a School of Blow Fish Believing in the Coming of the Milk Christ.”

o In early 2001, Jeff and Elf Power’s Laura Carter played a show at a random-ass bar in New Zealand, where they were camping and visiting (and recording) with the Tall Dwarfs. It remains Jeff’s only public performance of his own songs since 1998. It took, I think, two years for the news of the show to reach the States, and another two years for the tape to circulate. It’s an ultra-crispy soundboard, and — for reasons Jeff explains — an ultra-powerful performance. Perhaps a bit unforgiving, it’s well worth hearing any Aeroplane fan. Check it.


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