Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I didn't invent the term "antique-garde," but I sure use it a lot lately to describe some of the best new experimental sounds out there. And by "new" I mean "old": inspired by obsolete, forgotten styles and instruments. Case in point: a combo led by veteran Detroit oddball Frank Pahl called the Scavenger Quartet. Pahl plays on such junkshop refugees as the Farfisa organ, banjo, ukulele, euphonium, zither, toys (piano, popcorn maker), and occasionally resorts to digital technology so that he can sample that old circus music maker, the calliope. And doorbells. Yes, doorbells. They're honestly quite mellifluous in Pahl's hands. His fellow band members add horns, reeds, guitar, and all manner of percussion. A high school marching band appears on one song. Not only that, but some of Pahl's mechanical musical automatons are featured here as well.

Which is all well and good, but this would be mere
gimmickry without quality songwriting. Fortunately, the Quartet's got such grand tunesmithery that their addictive second album, "We Who Live On Land," has not left my CD player in weeks. The unusual sounds suggest Harry Partch or Tom Waits, but with an identity all their own, sometimes sweetly nostalgic, sometimes cartoonishly crazy.

Scavenger Quartet: "We Who Live On Land"

The album's artwork and song titles were inspired by another antiquity: a century-old book about sea life.

1. Marvelous Argonaut
2. Crimson Jellyfish
3. Wonderful Nautilus
4. Elegant Mermaiden
5. Fine-Haired Medusae
6. Excitable Sea Porcupine
7. Shy Polyps
8. Savage Sawfish
9. Sea Mirage
10. Gummy Stickleback
11. 6,000 Mureys of Julius Caesar
12. Dreaded Cuttlefish
13. Curious Barnacles
14. Brittle Starfish


Konrad Useo said...

Thanks for posting these guys.I want this album now.

Jingle said...

Thanks for posting

Mark said...

This is cool stuff, perhaps to be filed near that Junkyard Gamelan you posted some time back. Thanks.

Michael said...

Totally dig. I just ordered a copy. Thanks, as usual, for the head's up.

DJHDD said...

Yes Mr Fab this is ....well..well....it's Fab. I lurvs ur blog.

DJHDD said...

I just recieved my copy of "We who live on land" & love it...thank you Mr Fab for having a great musical taste & for keeping us music maniacs informed.

Mr Fab said...

Awesome, Doc, glad to be of help!

Anonymous said...

Would it be possible to get a download of this? As much as I'd like to purchase it, that doesn't seem too easy for someone in the UK. Thanks.

Mr Fab said...

Hmm, it does appear to have disappeared off of Amazon...I'll try to put it up soon.

Upside-down Cake said...

Is there any chance you could re-re-upload a copy of this? I have a copy of 'Hats', but this one seems not to be available anywhere (in the UK at any rate) in digital format...

Here's hoping... thankyou!

Mr Fab said...

Cant post this or any of Pahls works anymore. I believe he yanked them. But he is selling eveything inc this one from his site directly:

And he does international orders. Good luck!

Upside-down Cake said...

Okayee, thanks - I'll see if I can get my mitts on a hard copy :)