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ariel reviews

J U N K M E D I A . O R G


Castrato Beatbox Upstart Coughs Up Both Heat and Humidity

by Andy Beta
November 15th, 2004

Ariel Pink and the Haunted Graffiti
The Doldrums
Paw Tracks

For Medulla, Björk hewed her beats out of Rahzel and Mike Patton's epiglottises, Manhattan Transfer–ing them over in some sleek 15-odd studios. So why did the phlegmatic throats feel colder than pond scum in Reykjavík? And why does the metronomic spittle beatboxed by one-man band Ariel Pink and the Haunted Graffiti on eight-track feel so much warmer? Warmer than a casting director's Jacuzzi in the Hollywood Hills, warmer than a Spahn ranch skinny-dip with Squeaky Fromme, warmer than a teen runaway's Rohypnol drool puddle—each lip-smacked snare and spat-out break lures us deeper into the muggy smog and hot scuzz of The Doldrums. It's Pink's first non-CD Baby release, which is to say: He's coming up so you better get the party started.

With a Fisher Price fidelity that makes Bob Pollard sound more studio-hack exacting than Fagen-Becker, Pink pops phunny-pharm bottles like Brian Wilson and croons in a crusty bathrobe over wobbly tapes from Gary Wilson's long-lost Smile. When his castrato voice isn't shriveling Barry Gibb into Barry White ("Among Dreams"), Pink gets support from backup singers huffing Muppet-phetamines. It all numbs like gold-dust snot in the golden-throat glory days of FM radio, hawking up a stagnant swamp thing more hideous than Elton Jandek.

Ariel Pink plays Tonic November 20. pix


Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
The Doldrums [Paw Tracks]
Andy Harrison
13th October 2004

Improvisation can be mistaken for half-enthused laziness, or a frank lack of true ideas and hiding behind a smoke-screen of mumbling jams. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti quite rightly however, sees improv as a method of inserting a never-ending well of ideas and care-free attitude, into his sound collage of lo-fi genius.

'The Doldrums' is being released through The Animal Collective's own Paw Tracks label, which should go on to suggest some of the experimental difficulties and creative qualities this album stores within. Recorded on what sounds like a muffled home 4 track or walkman, the album shares only the characteristics of the Collective's lo-fi earlier recordings in a sense of tape methods and not actual musical stylings.

So what puts Ariel in a league of his own? Well he creates highly confusing, yet highly moresome music using nothing more than sketchy vocals, guitars, cheap keyboards and home-spun drum beats (all impressively created by his own mouth), with enough unpredictability and off-key vocals to make even Bobby Conn speechless.

His skewed alt-pop has a constantly humorous theme and the rare gift of surprising the most avid alternative music fan. It's the barnyard, medieval folk of Supreme Vagabond Craftsman meets the acid-sketchbook musings of Jody Wildgoose, to record the soundtrack for a new weird disco generation.

'The Doldrums' is not only imaginative, consistently entertaining and defies categorisation for the most part, but is quite frankly one of the most disturbingly mangled releases you're most likely to hear, that left this listener both dazed and confused. Ariel Pink doesn't follow trends, he just invents his own. 8/10


Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - The Doldrums Panda Bear - Young Prayer (both Paw Tracks)

A key member of NY's the Animal Collective, Panda Bear takes time out of the project to work on more introspective solo material. And if more introspective means more self-indulgent and altogether less fun, then yes it's true. Apparently these recordings are made in response to reflection on the death of his father. They certainly feel Earthy enough, and give us glimpses of the organic playtime pop of the Animal Collective, but most of the time it's nothing quite as brilliant. Most of the time, it's too free-form, too loose, lacking the focus that the Collective provides. There are a few gorgeous snippets here, but none of them are a patch on the Collective's last album.

Ariel Pink's album is a much denser and more captivating affair. Though not an Animal Collective member himself, Ariel was discovered by them while on tour and soon became a favourite. His music is completely twisted ñ he is a 70s-style singer, and apparently a beatbox as well ñ all the drum sounds on the album were made by his mouth. The songs are incredibly lo-fi, and remind me of The Police ñ they have the same spaciousness and eeriness ñ though there is an undeniable 70s excess to his vocals. These are songs to slow-dance to in school halls, surrounded by glitterball glints and confetti. This is what those songs really sounded like, with the emotion and the hormones and the alcohol in our bloodstream warping them and turning them into a sonic mush.

Weird, weird music.       


The Doldrums
Rating: 5.0

It seems as though Ariel Pink has beaten "Weird Al" Yankovic to a 69 Love Songs parody. Instead of "Asleep and Dreaming", Pink's debut album, The Doldrums, offers "Among Dreams"; instead of "Strange Eyes" we get "Strange Fires"; instead of "The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure" we get "The Ballad of Bobby Pyn"; instead of "Bitter Tears" we get "Crying"-- there's a list and it goes on, and the musical side of this hilarious send-up is even more masterful.

Maybe that claim is absolutely cuckoo. I mean, it has to be. There's no way this Hollywood hillbilly called Ariel Pink knows who Stephen Merritt is, and if asked, Pink would surely play Peter and deny the man three times. Either way, I've been trying for weeks now to figure out if Ariel Pink is a genius, an idiot, an idiot savant, or some combination of the three. Everybody's new favorite Collective-- Animal (not Nortec or Soul, though each group had its day)-- clearly seems to think highly of him. So much so, in fact, that Pink's crude and crooked pop affair is Paw Tracks' first non-Animal Collective release. That's quite a vote of confidence.

Everybody's heard these songs before-- they sound straight out of 60s pop radio, 80s shampoo commercials, and 90s soap operas. The melodies themselves are great but worn from overexposure. Yet the songs are secondary to Ariel Pink himself, the oddball who understands these melodies in vastly different terms than the rest of us do and, consciously or not, is dead-set on resurrecting them. The Doldrums isn't a collection of songs so much as an excessive human spectacle-- violently personal and necessarily confrontational. Think autistic kids covering Brian Wilson or Tom Waits singing a nursery rhyme or Shakespeare eating shit in an alley or Jesus giving birth to a pack of bear cubs.

The key to all of these spectacles, of course, is sincerity, and on The Doldrums, Ariel Pink seems pretty goddamn sincere. It's a shtick record, but the self-engrossed Pink probably doesn't think so. Its ultra lo-fi creepiness doesn't feel like a "trick" so much as an unfortunate necessity, as if an eight-track was all Pink could afford. The man is free as a bird with a rocketpack. He shoots off in falsetto with a smile, not a smirk. He pens lyrics that would put Rodd Keith's clientele to hippy-happy shame. He explores keyboard presets that should never make their way outside of the Sam Ash piano room. To be honest, it's all sort of beautiful.

My biggest gripe with The Doldrums is that most of these tracks are twice as long as they should be. Yet, criticizing the songs for their excess completely misses the point. This album can't contain Ariel Pink, and wasn't supposed to, and his next 500 CD-Rs will have the same problem. The songs are secondary to Pink's bourgeoning cult of personality-- the album turns its imperfections into selling points, its pigheadedness into firm resolve.

After opener "Good Kids Make Bad Grown Ups", we understand the supposed appeal of The Doldrums: These are normal songs, except a "crazy" guy is singing them, and he has "crazy" lo-fi production. The rest of the album functions as half endurance test and half a chance for us to find reasons to say, "Oh my god, this guy's a genius!" in that self-congratulatory "it takes a genius to realize genius" sort of way. I'm on the "he's not a genius" side-- Pink just happens to have a traditional pop sensibility but a bleak budget. Then again, maybe it is all shtick. It's a debate that invites endless speculation, further putting the emphasis on Pink while taking it away from the songs themselves.

It follows, then, that the best Ariel Pink songs are the ones that do the least to shape his mystique. "Haunted Graffiti" has the Bee Gees playing a frat party but its warbles and hisses turn the song into a high-stakes peep show. The song's melody succeeds here without being tied down to Pink's off-kilter delivery. "Let's Build a Campfire There" drops the Magnetic Fields parody and cuts straight to mimicry, and it works out nicely. Closer "Young Pilot Astray" follows that same Merritt line, with a fantastically whimsical melody and loads and loads of vocal overdubs for the refrain. Yet, there's something wrong about recommending any of these songs as starting points for Haunted Graffiti virgins: They're the most self-reliant, but they're also the least Pink.

And that's the trouble with The Doldrums, and the reasoning behind this conflicted rating. The album is not so much Ariel Pink's creation as it is Ariel Pink himself, a real-time observation of his brain synapses at work. His nerves are either firing at Einstein levels or misfiring like harlequin babies, and in fairness, I'm hardly the staff brain surgeon. -Nick Sylvester, October 26th, 2004

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
"For Kate I Wait"


Would I lose your respect if I told you I had to purchase a nightlight after listening to this song a few too many times? I'm not scared or anything; I just want to make sure I see Ariel Pink when he creeps up to my bedroom window in the middle of the night. I'm not "Kate", Ariel, go away! No, you cannot wear my skin as a mask!

Animal Collective claim to have discovered Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti while on tour in the West, signing him to their Paw Tracks imprint after hearing a CD-R of songs recorded on his home 8-track over the last five years. In the strangely compelling "For Kate I Wait", there are elements of Broken Social Scene and TV on the Radio, but I hesitate to suggest that the track sounds anything like either of those bands.

Instead, atmospheric synths, meandering guitar, whispers, moans, and mouth-made percussion swirl in the mind of a schizo poet locked away in the hills above Hollywood. The production value is pitiful, yet somehow the flatness and fuzz contribute to an eerie stalker vibe; imagine Peter Murphy singing Charlie Manson's greatest hits into a Fisher-Price tape recorder. Listening to this feels like putting on an unfamiliar blank cassette found in the bottom of a closet, and wishing I'd burned it instead.

Maybe it's that I live in Los Angeles, as does Mr. Pink, and I fear to think that something this bizarre and private so perfectly expresses my own feelings about this city: its detached self-importance and glossy desperation. Or maybe I'd rather associate this song with a faceless location than imagine the actual "Kate" to whom it is dedicated. Either way, I'm leaving my new nightlight on. [Peter Macia; October 20th, 2004]


Ariel Pink comes to the Tritone

Who is Ariel Pink and why is he driving me mad?

The first time I put on his album "The Doldrums," I thought something had gone seriously wrong with my sound system. Worse than low-fi, the production sounds like some distant AM radio signals that are drifting in and out of focus, vying for bandwidth.

And yet I kept coming back for more. There are glimmers of greatness here - haunting pop themes and strangely garbled, gurgly voiced lyrics themed on dream states and childhood memories - that seem leftover from pop's most psychedelic and paranoid eras.

Has this stuff been floating around in the ether for decades (like that hissy voice recording on "Lost"), just waiting to be heard? Could this be the ghost of Frank Zappa speaking to us from the great beyond, trying to make us "Freak Out" again?

The hype that accompanies the album says Ariel Pink has been hiding out in the hills of Los Angeles, and that he made this recording "at home with only a guitar, keyboard and eight-track." (I would have guessed a $20 cassette recorder.)

Oh yeah, and his drum sounds are all "unbelievably created with his vocals."

Harder to believe is that Ariel Pink is actually playing out now, performing Friday (Nov. 19) at Tritone as part of Plain Parade's second anniversary party. How can he possibly beat the demo, unless he laces everyone's cocktails with hallucinogens, or performs the entire show submerged in a giant fish tank?

Also on this ambient music-themed bill - musical modernists Sympathizers, laptop folkie Greg Davis and mutant groovester Signer (Tritone, 1508 South St. 10 p.m., $7, 215-545-0475).


What the hell!. Wat is dit? Rustig ademhalen, diep nadenken. Flashback. Bowie?

Gedachtespinsels trekken gestaag voorbij: verloren tapes, tienerjaren? Bowies jeugd? Eno, toen al? Neen. Dit is Ariel Pink, een excentrieke liedjesschrijver uit big bad Los Angeles.

The Doldrums bevat een spookachtige verzameling liedjes die een koortsige jarenzeventigsfeer ademen. Door de ultra lofi-opnamemethodes klinkt de plaat als een verloren Bowie-tape die afgespeeld wordt achter een glazen wand.

Ariel verzamelde zijn fantastische liedjes en perste ze op cd-r. Dat cd-r'tje werd opgepikt door The Animal Collective en zij bracht het uit op hun eigen Paw Tracks label. Gasten, bedankt! De spoken die door Ariels hoofd waren verdienen een groter publiek.

Het melodietje dat Ariel tijdens 'Good Kids Make Bad Grown Ups' uit zijn keyboard tovert spookt als een valse viool met slechts twee snaren door het klankbeeld. Zijn vocalen zijn, zwierig, zelfverzekerd en afwisselend. De uitbundigheid van die vocalen geeft The Doldrums een lekkere dosis schwung. Luister maar eens naar het zweverige 'Among Dreams' of het schitterend, spookachtige 'For Katie I Wait'. Hele rare snuiter tussen de vijftien rare snuiters is het tien minuten durende 'The Ballad for Bobby Pyn'. Met een stuwend ritme, dat haast aan Neu! doet denken, raakt het net niet de vervelingsgrens.

Al met al is vijftien nummers iets aan de lange kant voor The Doldrums. Het lekkers zit aan de voorkant, dus daar afbijten en er lekker lang op sabbelen.

tekst: Joris Heemskerk THE DOLDRUMS grant | 10.13.2004
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti 2
Paw Tracks

The first non-Animal Collective member of the Paw Tracks roster, Ariel Pink is like something out of time, a Sleestak that made it through the Pylon or something that Michael J. Fox drove through a lightning burst. Made up of two previously self-released CD-R releases, this record spans 4 years of recording time for Ariel Pink but spans a hundred eons of sound and sonic treasures, all of it under a thick layer of analog dirt and fuzz.

The fifteen songs on this release weave into each other, like a radio dial being turned endlessly between strange AM stations. Of course, you also happen to be listening to the radio while driving across a huge, empty desert… with a knife-wielding hitchhiker in the passenger seat. It is this constant feeling of tension and anticipation that really drives this record for me. You never can tell what will be the next turn in the road, or when that proverbial knife is going to plunge into your side, but man, it is totally worth the ride. The closest thing I can equate this album to is the first time I heard the first two Sebadoh tapes. I just didn't believe that music could sound so muddy or outrageous, and still be catchier than anything on the radio. It completely deconstructed and then reconstructed my entire vision and understanding of music. This record by Ariel Pink is very close to that mind-bending power of the earlier Sebadoh works, with a slightly heavier psychedelic edge to it.

The next closest thing to compare this with (unfortunately, the music critic's main tool is usually comparison) is the works of David Bowie and Brian Eno. The pop sensibilities of Ariel Pink are undeniable and so pervasive, even behind the fog of homemade cassette fuzz. In the end, it is the challenge of sifting the song from the surrounding, enveloping noise that drives me to love this record. Or perhaps it is the realization that the noise was intended all along to be part of the work. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: The Doldrums

The Law has this principle called "waste of resources" which is generally applied to property claims. If a hunk of land is owned by someone who isn't using it or who might have died/gone to jail/otherwise can't be found, the Court can, after reasonably seeking the absentee out, grant the land to another person whom the Court deems will put the land to good use. This is done under the assumption that the community benefits from the effective use of the land and that it's against public policy to let a resource go to waste. The principle dates back to the rustic days when all members of a given community had farms, and if everyone in town wasn't cranking out goat-loads of lentils, babies starved and/or virgins were sacrificed. It's basically a legal relic, but there is some wisdom buried therein. We now live in times where virgins are extinct, and the baby trend is winding-down in favour of longer vacations and larger DVD collections. "Waste of Resources" application is also, obviously, on the decline; just look at the racks at your local HMV. When all it takes to make a cute pop-hero is two attractive inbreeding Californians, a lifetime gym membership for their offspring, a Mickey Mouse Club scholarship, and an eventual million-dollar marketing budget, you have to think that maybe, just maybe, you could buy 50,000 talented singer-songwriters a digi-8-track or Pro-Tools, a Mac, and a used guitar for the same amount. You'd also end up sparing the pretty inbred the eventual coke rehab. That would be, in my estimation, an all-around effective allotment of the same resources.

The coin does have its flipside, though. What if these resources aren't promotional moneys but a more-or-less strong catalogue of songs? What if these songs were, at their best, quirky, strange, alluring, uplifting, addictive, and inventive--- but almost altogether wasted by, say, an AM radio sound so paper-thin that they crumple, fold, and disintegrate the moment they hit the air? Welcome to Doldrums, a record comprised of horrible-sounding gems by a very skilled, talented, and interesting artist. And you thought Britney and Justin had a love/hate relationship.

Now don't get me wrong, I can relate to this kind of music. My first copy of Buck 65's Vertex was on a 6th generation dub from a wonky tape deck, and I still played the hell out of it because its lo-fi-ness was a necessary evil. In the first place, that record was committed to tape during a 48-hour writing/recording spree when Buck's income came from slinging magazines and newspapers from an on-street stall in Halifax. But that was over six years ago.

I've got less compassion for Ariel Pink. Today, no one has an excuse for making shit-sounding albums. What can't be immediately recorded well can be touched-up on your record-label-owning friend's laptop. And with or without the Mac, what gets reeled on cassette in Sam Beam's bedroom can easily morph into one of the best albums of the first-half of this decade, no worries, as long as the songwriting and delivery accord with the whisper-in-your-ear quality of the recording. So what's the deal, Pink? I knew from track one you had something to say ("…good kids make bad grown ups"). I must be missing something here.

Doldrums goes from '80s electro pop-psych (the spectacular "Strange Fires") to wanna-Bee Gees (the painful "Among Dreams") to the ghost of smothered Supertramp (the schizo "Haunted Graffiti" which, in all fairness, slowly evolves into something quite spectacular over its four movements). But with Ariel's shrill falsettos and dirty-old-Brit baritones, the inevitable conclusion is you don't want any of these songs whispered in your ear. Due to the shirtless, pasty, graveyard-loitering Pink Flamingos extra on the cover, the very thought is somewhat repulsive.

So would these songs have benefited from some Pro-Tools or Avey Tarring? The sad detachment of the title track fits the fuzz, as does its creepy-crooned hook: "I'm just a killer / Can't kill anything." It therefore seems that--- judging from "Strange Fires" and "The Doldrums"--- either spaced psych or jilted Charles Manson would be the ethic matching the vacuous non-production technique of Doldrums. "For Kate I Wait" also makes a case for the no-fi with its plodding gum-percussion (Pink deceptively--- except for the "psshht!" cymbal crashes--- beatboxed the entire album), cascading synths, and pathetic lonely purgatory dejection, as if Pink would be singing this from behind the hot water boiler in his basement with the lights out anyway.

There are also moments where it seems the 8-track is actually helping him out by upping the novelty quotient, thereby mitigating the elevator cheese factor that would be present if one heard "Gray Sunset" in all its glory. The answer to that question is a resounding "I dunno," largely because the work is scattered enough that the 8-track is the most consistent thing about it.

Whether it was intentional or by necessity, Doldrums is its own worst enemy: it gives us a handful of fantastic songs and takes away their enjoyment with an unnecessary, now-novel no-fi approach to presentation. Dreamy? Mostly. Intriguing? Like a car wreck. Listenable? Kind of. Frustrating? To no end. Satisfying? The opposite. Arty?

Um, maybe. I'll say yes, if just to cover my ass, because I just don't get it.

-Aaron Newell, November 10th, 2004 Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti "The Doldrums" (CD)
Label: Paw Tracks
released in 2004

If were Entertainment Weekly we would not only be influencing the way that Spin reviews music, we would combine our interpretation of Ariel Pink's The Doldrums with our interpretation of The Late Great Daniel Johnston, channeling those interpretations into one, singular, super-dang-bang review on both albums – something so freaking grand it would be twice as hard to ignore! If were Entertainment Weekly we would also pay our writers in some form of broadly recognized currency, as opposed to promotional items and certificates of indie credibility[1] – but that's a little off topic.

Because, strangely enough, the topic at hand is Ariel Pink and his Haunted Graffiti, or, more specifically, an album that Ariel Pink made all by himself (correct, it has nothing to do with who's covering music in what ways). And our topic begins in a way that one might expect an inexplicably half-fulfilling, early- to mid-'70s film of urban tragedy to end; like a crappy soundtrack to credits rolled abruptly over unfinished business, The Doldrums will indulge thoughts like, "That can't be right," and "What the fuck?!" almost immediately within the first track.

But "Good Kids Make Bad Grown Ups," must be "right" enough for Ariel Pink, because every track that follows is founded on the same intriguingly awful sound. Had Gary Numan recorded Replicas with the Velvet Underground in mind, on tape that had been left for dead twenty years before his time, and had he then let the master recordings decay lightly in something patently abrasive for another twenty years, the results would have an appeal similar to that of The Doldrums – but the staggered ambience probably wouldn't be as superbly ugly. This entire disc has the feel of an inevitable classic destined for the depths of a murky basement, for the sole purpose of spurring a discovery that would generate the excitement justly due. But, let's be clear, the album itself isn't vintage; it simply seems as though it should be.

Through awkward bridges, stumbling tracking, and consistently unstable tonality these songs want to go in three directions at once but are held together convincingly by Ariel Pink's unashamed and unrestricted expression. Personal qualms and confusion spout from a stream of limited consciousness, producing such oddly affecting lines as "Please don't touch me / Please don't want me / Please be near me / Please don't scare me / Please don't leave me," ("Among Dreams"), and "I know everything about hate," which is frequently repeated through the eleven-minute course of "The Ballad of Bobby Pyn."

In text alone the words might fall a little flat, but expressed through an amateur, naturally gothic croon, upheld by overly aware falsetto, and accented by childlike explosion noises, the sincerity becomes strangely evident. And by way of sunshine pop incubated in a mineshaft or polished no wave mutilated beyond recognition, the sincerity takes on a certain eerie tone. And maybe that's what makes a comparison to Daniel Johnston fundamental: the two share a genuine quality that's not really meant for others to stumble upon, but that's too damn intrinsically impressive to go unnoticed.

So, having The Doldrums share a review with The Late Great Daniel Johnston might be the thing for those on a frugal budget to do. However if were Entertainment Weekly it would have been much easier for us to simply ignore this disc. But, as you may have noticed, we didn't ignore it – 'cause that'd be terrible thing to do. Damn, we're frickin' awesome[2]. No! Ariel Pink is frickin' awesome. If nothing else, that's the frickin' point.


[1] Some 30 writers scoff at the idea of indie credibility, but because the certificates are lemon scented[3] they are never wasted. The certificates aren't wasted, that is.
[2] Especially when comparing apples to oranges[3].
[3] Fruit references? We got 'em.

Review written on 2004/10/15 by Brian Holm
Rating: -30-:  7 out of 10 Visitors:  8.8 out of 10 (9 votes)
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
The Doldrums, Paw Tracks 2004
by Mike Powell

The thought that Ariel Pink could be the next person on the street is nearly too much to bear, so instead imagine it thusly: The Doldrums was recorded during phantom years seemingly deleted from the Julian catalog in the janitorial closets, storage rooms, and makeshift offices of L.A.-area aerobics centers, porn theaters, flophouses and other out of the way places that only serve as spice to our otherwise normal lives, but Ariel called home. His reel-to-reel tape deck was balanced precariously upon a lice-ridden YMCA mattress, his rusted Echoplex sitting under an electric eggbeater, brown with tan stripes and dull orange buttons found at the Salvation Army, his lyrics scribbled late night (on napkins wetted with turkey grease) so furiously that his joint jumped right into the crotch of his tattered maroon corduroy pants. Ariel didn't know who he was making music for (despite the simple dedication "for Elena"), he had always thought his music was dedicated to a hopeless excess, a self-indulgent solitude, a general entropy of subjectivity, the feeling that would make one dance macabre amidst the streaked lipstick, the bleached out sex, the cascade of shampoo and malt liquor that carried him from day to funky-ass day.

Only after an indeterminate amount of years and space can this music can be understood, and who knows, The Doldrums, though purportedly from 1999-2003, could just as well be from the First Gulf War, or 197X, or last week. But regardless of actual time, between us and the heart of the record is an impenetrable haze, a saccharine miasma of Casio strings, poorly tuned guitars, distant vocals, and a narcotic idiosyncrasy vomiting out vaguely goth-gentle candy-synth gore-pop that Gary Wilson might dig on during his cool down lap.

"For Kate I Wait" is one of the few love songs that actually comes close to love, the light headed voices chirping aimlessly in the dark, the blasé-menacing-blasé ardor of an obscured lover's baritone aching in the hiss and fidelity, the thought of Kate passing her window stirring his CVS-brand Tussin blood. "Gray Sunset" is Ariel's bid at the movies: our hero pounds his suburban pavement in white Reeboks looking for answers in a sloppy collage of irresistible ballad clichés regarding loneliness when everything feels direct to VHS.

It's a little impenetrable, and it's hard to imagine Ariel as less than a first class misfit/outcast/dreamer/freak, but nevertheless, The Doldrums can be quite beautiful, and certainly a unique experience. It weathers the ironic post-ironic post-post-ironic mining of Beck but certainly has something in common with the difficult task of drawing something genuine out of music and affects that seem deliberately and relentlessly depth-less. Also easily heard are echos of another singular L.A. son, Frank Zappa, in the excessive, almost threatening cornball sensibility of Ariel's more delirious stretches of muzak. Add the romantic anonimities of karaoke, fake vampire fangs, glitter, and xerox machines, and we near Ariel himself.

Truly "Haunted Graffiti", this is the public trace of a man haunting the vague recesses of our sensibilities, streaming his emotions in saliva, semen, silly string, and rubber cement over cracking brick and glass, a self-satisfied horror and lovely mystery.