The Music Tapes construct Christmas carols with bite

Julian Koster isn't a carpenter. But if you invite him to your house, he'll show you how he makes a saw sing.

As one might expect from the man behind the machines that make up the Music Tapes, he believes the tools have minds of their own. Saws aren't made to sing, they're encouraged. Using a child's violin bow, Koster encourages his saws to burst into song by patting them gently.

Koster will take his singing saws on a 26-city, invitation-only caroling tour this month. Those who e-mail him in advance will get an at-home serenade of saw--sung Christmas tunes. "I just thought caroling was a really wonderful human tradition," says Koster, infatuated with "the idea of a knock on the door, and this kind of music winding its way around your neighborhood or your town."

Koster formerly played his saws, banjo and other instruments in the Athens-based indie outfit Neutral Milk Hotel. In the Music Tapes, he sings, saws and provides off-beat accompaniment with machines like a television set he's appropriately named Static, and the 7-foot-tall metronome.

Koster says his saws are just like human singers, each with a unique voice. He likes the rusty old-school variety, but admits a fondness for newer models as well. "One of my favorite singers is named Stanley Thrifty," Koster says. "That saw's got a beautiful voice, really bell-like."

The only drawback is that he keeps meeting new ones. "I'm probably gonna end up with a house full of saws," Koster says. "And it'll never get old because every saw I meet sings different, so you have a new voice to play with. And there's nothing better than that."

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