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Astonishing 8-track avant-pop unearthed by Animal Collective
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
THE DOLDRUMS/VITAL PINK PAW TRACKS
* * * * *(five stars)
ARIEL PINK WAS HANGING in obscurity in the LA
hills until he handed a demo of material recorded in
1999/2000 to the members of Animal Collective.
They were so impressed that they broke with
precedent and offered to issue his work on their
own label. There are key points of similarity between
Ariel and AC –– preoccupations with childhood
("Good Kids Make Bad Grown Ups") and campfires,
a general feeling of regression that is characteristic
of 21st-century outcrops of psychedelia. Beyond that,
however, Ariel Pink languishes alone. Although these
two albums were recorded on 8-track, their range,
volatility and Simultaneist overload sounds like The
Beatles circa 1967, The Human
League, FM radio's Hall Of
Fame, Phil Spector, Tiny Tim
and the great R Stevie
Moore all frolicking at once
in an acid bath in his own
head. Ariel's vocals are
adrift, bobbing up all over
the place in the mix, now a
distant cry on the horizon, now
right up nose to nose with you, and, on "Haunted
Graffiti", crawling right up into your ear canal.
Tracks like "Among Dreams",
on which Ariel sounds like he's swimming in
his own brain, shouldn't work––so rambling, so
amateurish. Yet somehow they have a way of lapsing
perfectly into misshape, so that you can't take your
ears off them. "Strange Fires" sounds like Babybird's
"You're Gorgeous" regurgitated (indeed, as lo-fi
troves go, this is comparable with the shock of first
coming on BB's early, long-unreleased work). But
"The Ballad of Bobby Pym" crowns the collection,
one of those sunshine-after-the-rain moments you
experience too occasionally both in music and in life.
The six short tracks of Vital Pink (on the same disc)
are less multiple, with less slipping and sliding,
offering relative respite. Great musical ideas
apportioned one or two at a time, rather than in the
nines and tens. Still, it testifies to an idea that the
spirit of pop and rock past can only be recaptured by
returning to the meagre studio means of yesteryear,
rather than drearily hi-tech recording methods which
clog every sonic pore. As Pink proves, it's the perfect
way to access the frightening no-limits of the
imagination. DAVID STUBBS
Ariel Pink on vocal drumming, primal emotions, and his kinship with Animal Collective UNCUT: How did you hook up with
PINK: I didn't even know who they were,
although when I saw them I sensed a
kinship. I casually handed them a CD-R
of my album... three months later, they
emailed me. Since making The Doldrums
I've learnt to play my instruments. But this
one was seminal. It's totally naive. A bunch
of mistakes that made the cut.
Is it true your drum sound is
It's just this weird tic that I've had since
I was a kid [demonstrates]. I do that
into a microphone, with a little distortion
and I get the sound I want in my head.
Are you obsessed with the ghosts
of rock and pop past?
Oh, that's what pop has always been
– an appeal to passive nostalgia.
Innovation? Who cares? Past pop's what
gets these primal emotions going.