Released in 1998 on the obscure French label Demosaurus, Remove the Cork culls a truckload of short pieces Frank Pahl wrote for various ensembles and stage productions. It departs from the song-oriented 1997 CD In Cahoots to take an all-instrumental and more experimental direction. Yet, at its heart remains the deceiving simplicity and the odd instrumentation that are characteristics of the man's work. Ukuleles, banjos, euphoniums, and harmoniums are joined by wide arrays of toys and home-built automated instruments. With these Pahl creates eerie textures ("Epic Drone," made only of euphoniums) and catchy but detuned melodies. The opening "Toy Suite" immediately sets the mood, one that fans of Pascal Comelade will easily relate to. Ukuleles and whistling make for most of the delicate charm of "Grandmother's Treadle." "Lolita Ya Ya" is a simple pseudo-western melody endlessly repeated with a new instrument joining at the beginning of each cycle. This track and "Fireman's Dance" (with guests Doug Gourlay, Marko Novachcoff, and the ubiquitous Eugene Chadbourne totally in his element here) have the amateurish charm of a street fanfare like the Pascals or the Fanfare Pourpour. Some tracks, like the eight minute "Portrait of a Woman..." push things into more serious territory with interesting results. To fully appreciate Remove the Cork, it is best to be acquainted with Comelade's work, or to have been prepared by Pahl's more accessible album In Cahoots. In any case, you are in for a big surprise: This is the kind of music you don't get to hear often, even in avant-garde circles. It allies genius and cuteness!
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AllMusic Review by François Couture
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