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A true original, composer/musician/sound artist Frank Pahl spent his musical career in the underground, amassing a small cult following. Whether with his groups Only a Mother and the Scavenger Quartet or playing solo, he charms his public with lovely avant-garde melodies played on an impressive array of neglected acoustic instruments and homemade automatons. When he decides to write lyrics, they take the form of bittersweet stories. His music allies a naïve simplicity and a tasteful touch of amateurism (the result of using instruments that are difficult to keep in tune). His aesthetics belong to an unsuspected territory between Eugene Chadbourne and Pascal Comelade.
Born February 11, 1958, in Trenton, MI, Pahl chose to learn the euphonium (a smaller version of the tuba) in high school. This would be the first of many unusual instruments he would later add to his arsenal, including the harmonium (a pump organ), the ukulele, and the banjo, along with the clarinet, guitar, and piano.
He first left his mark in the late '80s with the avant-folk group Only a Mother, who also included Doug Gourlay and Marko Novachcoff — both would continue to collaborate in his many projects. 1991 saw the release of the group's last effort, Naked Songs for Contortionists, and Pahl's first solo CD, Cowboy Disciple. His participation in the tribute album to the Residents, Eyesore, in 1996 and the release of his third album, In Cahoots, the next year, both on the label Vaccination, attracted a relatively larger audience. A turning point, the latter features short songs à la Only a Mother sided by instrumental tunes pointing toward his late-'90s productions. Contributors included like-minded maverick Eugene Chadbourne and Shaking Ray Levis.
Pahl continued to perform and record sparsely. He received numerous commissions for theater and dance productions and was also active as a multidisciplinary artist, creating strange and eye-catching automated sound sculptures. At the turn of the century he formed the Scavenger Quartet (with drummer Gourlay, saxophonist Tim Holmes, and bassist Joel Peterson), who released Whistling for Leftovers on the label Snowdonia in 2001. ~ François Couture, Rovi
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