David Pajo - Pajo

He is also one who has generally stayed below the critical radar. I guess that's where he is happiest – either that or he has some of the worst pr and marketing people in history.



I've been following David Pajo's career for quite a while now. I started off with his M is, Aeriel M and Papa M aliases before working my way back to Slint. Besides these 'bands' he's also played with Tortoise and Billy Corgan's Zwan. In short, he's a bit of a legend to those that follow modern American 'indie' music; he is also one who has generally stayed below the critical radar. I guess that's where he is happiest – either that or he has some of the worst pr and marketing people in history. Releasing records under lots of different aliases certainly hasn't helped his cause (though that hasn't stopped Will Oldham), nor has releasing 3inch cd singles with little or no fanfare. If he'd saved the tracks up and put them out as an album then maybe he'd have had more success. But what the hell – he's still releasing quality records and that's what counts.


Pajo has changed tack over the last couple of years. His early solo career was mostly instrumental – it was only really on b-sides that Pajo chose to sing. The albums were based around electric guitars and were really rather beautiful. With 2001's Whatever Mortal Pajo actually released a song-based album. With Pajo he has gone one stage further from his earlier template and produced an acoustic album of songs. The opening track sets the tone for the album. Oh No No features a strummed guitar, Pajo's thick whisper and what appears to be a sampled cymbal. It sounds like a home recording and that is because it is a home recording. The album was made with the music software that came with his laptop – Pajo just sang directly into his computer and then added the rest of the instrumentation. Most tracks feature strummed and / or picked acoustic guitar whilst keyboards, electric guitars and electronic clicks and whirls augment a few of the songs. The songs themselves are very simple – Pajo has never been afraid to create songs that sound sparse on first listen but which, over time, manage somehow to get inside your head and not let go.


Given the fact that the album is mostly one man and his acoustic guitar, it is perhaps inevitable that Pajo skirts around singer-songwriter territory. Fortunately for us he never gets sucked into writing the lyrical inanities that appear to be part of that particular deal. There are plenty of highlights. Manson Twins (which sounds at times like it could have been a Simon and Garfunkel track) feels as though it was recorded on a back porch. It is sweet and intimate and fleshed out with occasional twinkles of piano. Let me Bleed has the feeling of a late sixties pastoral whilst Baby Please Come Home has a bit more of a kick – fuzzy electric guitars and a bit of a beat give this track its edge. Not everything works – Francie, is a spoken word track (over a Twin Peaks-like bass and Durutti Column-esque guitars) and feels out of place on the album. Mary of the Wild Moor feels like a parody of a parody of a folk song. Also, Pajo's voice has a very narrow range and it might have been interesting to have a couple of different vocalists involved.



Ultimately these are minor criticisms. I don't think there is anything here that stands out in the way that Always Farewell from Aeriel M did, but overall this is a gently beguiling album. It requires many listens for the tracks to really seep into your head. In this sense Pajo is akin to fellow travellers Smog and Will Oldham – people who will more than repay the listener's investment in their music.


Words: Chris Dawson.