Pahl has been dishing out his oddball folk-fluxus spasm band stylings since the early 1980s. Using funky home-made erector set automatons, and small electric toy engines to pluck, ring, drone and play the instruments in random order, Pahl’s methodology is a direct anscestor to Russolo’s groaning Futurist sound machines and the fluxus music-beater instruments devised by Joe Jones in the early 1960s. Pahl’s music has a deep visual element and is best witnessed in live performance.
Pahl’s new disc Songs of War and Peace, delivers up a sweet shenanigan bagfull of twisted acoustic novelties with some seriously funny overtones. There is a strong political aim inside this slapstick, lyrical and folkish album. Beyond the obvious “Impeach Bush” messages, inspirational folkies Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger will come to mind as well as the Bonzo Dog band and other hep-satirists like Lenny Bruce or the Firesign Theater. It is a peace album with a message we can’t hear too often. “We should be angry, we should be fuming, as we pull the wool over our own eyes,” Pahl nails the apathy and miasma in his song Tomorrow, and “What’s a civil right here and there? What’s a little blood on the nation?” – from More. The focus is on the damage we are doing to ourselves: “How broken do we have to be, before we start our mending?” Pahl is clearly moving beyond his avant-garde strategies, without losing his underground following and we are lucky to benefit from this.
Songs of War & Peace, is well worth picking up and deserves multiple listens. It is so well crafted that it seems down-home simple and on some levels it is… but there’s a lot more going on here; a subversive geometry and landscape carved out of rock and earth, an almost spiritual album, keenly lacking in gimmicks (and Pahl can be a gimmick-junkie at times…). Helped by friends Eugene Chadbourne (Mothers of Invention) and the Scavenger Quartet, dadaist sound impressario Pahl sculpts out an apocalyptic tale from our own backyard, that is our own current quagmire. A few selective cover songs that includeÂ Phil Ochs,”I Ain’t Marching Anymore”, Woody Guthrie’s “Do Re Mi” and one of the greatest send-ups of USA national anthem commercialism, the “Scarred Mangled Spanner” written by Ian Bedford.
Frank Pahl lives and works out of the Detroit/Ann Arbor area, and is one of our “local treasures” as noted in a Metro Times review. Try and catch one of his toy-symphonic sets in live performance. He’s a true original, a great whistler and performs in the Detroit area often.
About the Scavengers: Bandleader Frank Pahl scavenged three like-minded musicians from groups around the Detroit area and set them to the task of learning his latest batch of material. Joel Peterson, of Immigrant Suns, on bass; Tim Holmes, of Major Dents, on tenor sax; Pahl’s longtime band-mate from Only a Mother, Doug Gourlay, plays drums. In addition, Pahl and Holmes build automated musical instruments that sometimes accompany the group. The instrument parts come from small motors, Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs, rotisseries and other unlikely places. Source: band bio. An interview with Pahl appears at FRANK PAHL LIVING MUSIC