Wednesday, May 19, 1999


Posted By on Wed, May 19, 1999 at 12:00 AM

Shifting creative gears is no problem for Frank Pahl. He moved like lightning from the wildly experimental country dirges of his full-length In Cahoots to this, a random storm of résumé items, which includes many of his own compositions for theater. Mention of ukuleles, whistles, bagpipes, animal sounds, glockenspiels, bike horns, banjos, bells, chimes, and toy and prepared instruments of varying kinds may do all it takes to earn the adjective "interesting." It also makes for a good game of Hey, How’s He Making That Sound? The emotional textures and flights of imagination in Remove the Cork, however (and yes, luckily), call for the transformation of — and not a random fumbling about with — ordinary (or not-so-ordinary) objects as musical instruments. It’s hard to select highlights from a CD that covers so much ground, but here goes: "Lolita Ya Ya," based on the theme for the 1962 film Lolita, is an unsettling, bare-bones tune for all its perverse happiness, horse sounds and "Strangers in the Night" echoes. Some other must-hears are: "One Minute for Wild Swan" from a theater production of Winnie The Pooh; the sophisticated hoedown called "Fireman’s Dance" with Eugene Chadbourne on five-string banjo; and the eight-minute-long aural labyrinth, "Portrait of a Woman," which features a rambunctious tea kettle. If Remove the Cork has a mission, it’s to give us Pahl straight up and in natural form, bringing the everyday into realms of the fantastic where music is as much a listening experience as a call to dream.


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