March 6, 2005 -- LOCKED away in the Sony master vault, or maybe Fiona Apple's sock drawer, is an album that's gathering dust - and the kind of momentum that might push the mystery disc into rock mythology. Apple was the teen-age waif who took the rock world by storm with her debut album, "Tidal." Her single "Criminal," released when she was only 19, won a Grammy and propelled her to multi-platinum success.
An indie darling, Apple dated filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, and released her second album with an 83-word-long title, usually shortened as "When the Pawn ..."
Her third effort - the mystery disc - is titled "Extraodinary Machine," and was completed almost two years ago in May 2003.
But it was never released.
Frustrated Apple fans have taken to the Internet, lobbying for the album, calling it a masterpiece.
A Sony insider said the fate of "Machine" is no mystery - reporting that the artist and label agree that the record isn't ready to enter the company's catalog.
Sony execs say the album was never officially delivered. "We join music lovers everywhere in eagerly anticipating her next release," a company official said.
Apple, now 27, was not available to verify that claim, but a complete tape of "Extraordinary Machine" - ready or not - slipped out and is now in the hands of 25-year-old radio deejay Andrew Harms, who has been playing its 11 tracks on 107.7 The End, in Seattle.
Speaking to The Post from his offices, Harms said, "This record is amazing - a brilliant piece of music, unlike anything I've heard from Fiona Apple. [ REST OF ARTICLE ]
Apple contemplated never recording another album. Then, in the spring of 2002, Brion and Apple met for their weekly lunch. Brion had recently been ejected from a five-year relationship with the comedian Mary Lynn Rajskub. Making matters worse, the breakup occurred while he was scoring Paul Thomas Anderson's ''Punch-Drunk Love.'' Rajskub had a large role in the film, and Brion spent hours watching his ex on celluloid. Now finished with the score, he was at loose ends.
''Please, please make another album,'' Brion begged Apple. ''I need work that can save me.''