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MAX TUNDRA Supports: Papiro, Andreas Schnetzler

Freitag 06.06.2003

Revels in sweet, fractured pop excess of a kind Saint Etienne and Stereolab stopped striving for yea

MAX TUNDRA BIOGRAPHY Ben Jacobs was lucky enough to grow up in a house with a piano. As a child he protested about the lessons in which he was forced to learn the music of the famous (dead) composers. "I used to prefer sitting at the keyboard at home and playing tv theme songs and music from adverts”, remembers Ben. Eventually he realised that this expanse of black and white keys could be turned to his own advantage and he began forming his own musical inventions. One day, the teenage Ben bought a Commodore Amiga 500 home computer. Armed with this and a £1 piece of music software, he began to explore the world of electronic composition. Eventually he got so good at using this cheap set-up that Warp Records released his first single "Children At Play”; an energetic, if lengthy, instrumental romp created with these lo-fi means and sent to the label as a demo tape. "Warp were the only label who were interested in my first tune,” says Ben. "I sent my demo tape to fifty labels in all, but most people freaked out. A couple of guys made the bizarre criticism that I had too many ideas.” This criticism has frequently dogged Max Tundra (as he was hereby renamed), in a musically diverse, eclectic career where time signatures, musical genres and instrumentation have been given the thorough shake-up they have long needed. A debut album "Some Best Friend You Turned Out To Be” and three subsequent singles for Domino Recordings have given the world a set of dense, multi-textured, emotionally-charged tunes, each of which has a different story to tell. "My working methods for each composition tend to vary every time. Often my music contains no electronics at all, and I greatly enjoy learning as many musical instruments as possible, so as to make my records stand out from those made by totally computer-based musicians.” As well as his trusty Amiga (which he still does all his sequencing on today, having vowed never to use a laptop to make music), Max Tundra’s records have variously featured himself playing drums, trumpet, banjo, cello, piano, guitars, violin, recorders, synthesizers, melodica, Fender Rhodes, xylophone, bass guitar, oven door, egg-slicer and even a recording of an ancient clock in the British Museum in London. Max Tundra has recently completed his second long player "Mastered by Guy at The Exchange”, out now on the Domino and tigerbeat6 labels. However, the phrase "long player” is something of a misnomer; once again, the album clocks in at less than 45 minutes. Max explains: "In the old days, you would rarely get an album which was longer than three quarters of an hour. This was due to the limitations of the single vinyl LP. Now that CDs have been invented, musicians all over the world feel obliged to bombard their public with 74 minutes of music at a time. This frequently leads to albums cluttered up with boring stuff, leaving people reaching for the skip-button of their CD players. I try and spend as long as possible ensuring that every track on a Max Tundra record is totally necessary. Most of the classic albums in history are single pieces of vinyl.” Anyone who heard Max’s instrumental debut album will be pleasantly surprised to learn of the appearance of vocals on his new record. In fact, every track on "Mastered by Guy at The Exchange” contains singing (except for "61over” which contains a conversation). The singing voices are provided by Ben himself and his sister Becky. "She’s been blessed with a beautiful voice. I use hers whenever the pitch of the song is slightly too high for me.” The mixture of instrumentation, styles and textures is as vivid as ever, with a few more reference points to existing forms of music than before. Brassy opener "Merman” isn’t a million miles away from the sassy swingtime big bands of the 1950s. "Lysine”, the first single to be taken from the new album, and Max’s poppiest number to date, recalls the detailed programming of R&B producers The Neptunes, whilst album track "Hilted” owes more to 80s English pop-psychers XTC. The final track "Labial” gives this LP its grand, epic closure. These warm, emotive, uplifting songs will capture your spirit, pour it over ice, and serve it back to you at the best disco in town (where you won’t get turned away for liking both Destiny’s Child and Frank Zappa). Incidentally, there’s no dress code either.

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