Frank Pahl

In Cahoots

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In Cahoots is Frank Pahl's most accessible album, thanks to a handful of almost-normal songs. All tracks are the fruit of a collaboration. Guests include Immigrant Suns, Eugene Chadbourne, Shaking Ray Levis, Luc Houtkamp, Missy Gibson, and Pahl's old group Only a Mother. Instrumentation is this artist's calling card. Throughout the album, the listener is met by euphoniums, pump organs, banjos, ukuleles, along with acoustic guitars, violins, cellos, vocals, and as little percussion as possible. The music often feels detuned or amateurish -- the same artistic amateurism that guided Pascal Comelade for so many years. Half of these pieces have lyrics, usually bittersweet, ironic, or downright funny, like these lines from "These Lips": "These lips of mine, they yearn for another/maybe you'd like to partake of their sweet juices" (sung in a bluesy Tom Waits impression and accompanied by a string quartet). Missy Gibson's voice graces two tracks, both beautiful and unusual ballads. Chadbourne's banjo and vocal contribution to "Emotional Thumbs" turns it into one of the weirdest bits of folk you'll ever here. The instrumental pieces follow the same serious/kidding paradigm: the quality of the writing is undeniable, while the delivery keeps telling us that we should not take it all too seriously. And yet, after listening to In Cahoots, snippets of melodies remain attached to your brains, something that is not necessarily the case with Pahl's follow-up Remove the Cork, which requires a little more effort. This one is the best place to start.

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