Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
he 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.