It seems as though it should be a fact that everyone enjoys mixing entertainment. For example, what would a concert be without a good performance? Most entertainers understand this sentiment and run with it. The Mix Tapes, a musical group now meets podcasters, not only to understand this, but embody it.
The Mix Tapes, who recently put out their first full season podcast through Night Vale Presents, almost simultaneously released their newest EP,“The Orbiting Human Circus,” on February 10. Here is where the interesting part comes in: the EP is directly from their multi-entertainment podcast, “The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air),” that includes music, story and sound collage.
The cast’s lead singer, Julian Koster, is a past contributor to the Elephant 6 Collective. While the rest of The Mix Tapes’ members include John Cameron Mitchell, Mandy Patinkin, Tim Robbins, Charlie Day and more. There are also feature guest collaborators Brian Dewan, and Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum.
“The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air)” is a fictional podcast about a singing janitor (Julian Koster) who works at the Eiffel Tower. Eventually he finds himself in an adventure trying to discover the secrets of the popularized radio show broadcasted at the top of the tower. The podcast takes place in a combination of time periods, including the 1930s and today. With this in mind, the cast recorded their music both on their podcast and EP on a 1940s Presto Record Lathe, 1960s tape machine, 1930s wire recorder, and to be a little contemporary a computer was involved. Julian Koster, who is a fan of combining new age and past recording techniques, has been perfecting this through decades of experience.
With the casts musically diverse sound, and their varied use of entertainment including music, storytelling and games it is no wonder their podcast has reached 2 million downloads, achieving a slot in the top ten most downloaded podcasts on the U.S. iTunes podcast charts.
Koster wrote his feelings about the podcast and said, “The idea of creating long form musical narratives in the podcast medium feels like the most exciting thing in the world right now. Listeners can become so invested in the characters and the world and be engaged with the music in such a personal way, they can truly and vividly picture the images that sound collages suggest”. I would personally have to agree with Koster, the dramaticism of the fiction podcast pops as if your imagination could create the character’s body, face, and clothing choice. It’s like listening to a book on tape, but better because it feels as though you are listening to only the recorded version of a theatrical performance.
After Neutral Milk Hotel collapsed in 1999, Koster who is famous for his ‘singing saw,’ began his solo career by forming The Mix Tapes. His current band has the same experimental indie outsider music as his former band with its complex lyrics and eclectic range of instruments.
Their newest EP includes four songs: “The City of Lights,” “J’Attendrai,” “Where Evening’s Dream Goes” and “I’ve Got My Love”. Each song has it’s own eerily beautiful sound, showcasing Koster’s sad voice and a toned down version of the childish happiness in circus instrumentals. The EP feels theatrical in the way it tells a story of Koster’s journey of emotions during the fictional podcast’s unraveling of events. But, this does not mean the music is not great to listen to by itself, instead it is the perfect music to relax to or keep your mind concentrated on work.
Koster wrote, “The whole thing unfolds over the course of months and becomes a little part of people’s lives. I’m so grateful that we’re a part of such an amazing creative frontier”. This quirky man in a multi-entertainment podcast has a way of making audio entertainment just as fun as a Netflix show. Who knows, The Mix Tapes may just change the already popular podcast medium for the better.