The Back of Beyond

by

comment

Frank Pahl, a Wyndotte-based musician, composer and instrument builder, has earned a slice of international acclaim for building self-playing autoinstruments and expressing his musical whims with the eccentricity of a mad scientist. Initially it might smack of music for the black turtleneck crowd, but enjoying Pahl’s most recent, The Back of Beyond, is not exclusive to fans of fringe.

Like much of his homespun catalogue, The Back of Beyond brims with catchy little melodic shorts orchestrated for euphonium, toy air organs and his virtuosic whistling. His instrumental bric-a-brac includes an assortment of bike horns, a “twittering machine” and something (or someone) called “Pete Repeat the sampling parrot.” Out there? Yeah, but Pahl’s highly imaginative, melodic 24 compositions make the strange trip a very smooth one. The record’s appetizers (“Watergirl,” “Tenor”) feature an unimposing, breezy ambience that introduces Pahl’s off-balanced charm. When he has you in his pocket, intentionally rough edges on tunes like “Warped #16” (which evokes incidental movements of Tom Waits’ Black Rider score) and the crooked march of “Homage to Rotisseries” don’t seem that strange at all.

The record’s finest moment comes in “Trio of the Vanishing Gods on Their Cloud,” (originally used as music for Bertolt Brecht’s U-M production of The Good Person of Szechwan). The daydreamy near-waltz showcases Pahl in top form — combining conventional melodic ideas with a gently cluttered mess of sounds. When it takes hold, Pahl’s lazy melodies have lulled you to far familiar musical shores. And once you get out there, you may never want to go back again.

Nate Cavalieri writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.