Part shut-in, part showoff, Ariel Pink toils away on his 8-track cassette recorder to construct the musical meta-narrative known as "Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti," experimenting with the pop format like a kid tinkering with a chemistry set. The resulting alchemy of afternoon rock, psych-folk and new-wave cabaret is catchier than it is crazy ... and Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti is pretty fucking crazy.
It sounds like a daydream homage to Ennio Morricone, or a karaoke contest between Syd Barrett and Gary Wilson, or Joy Division covering the Jackson Five, or a lonely Los Angeleno fighting his 20s with homemade pop tunes. These recorded labors of loneliness come complete with kid-vid art films, silly messianic posturing and an undercurrent of brooding delirium.
After years of shooting the moon with self-releases, Ariel strung together enough recordings to snag the musical group Animal Collective's interest in 2002. He promptly inked a deal with the Brooklyn freak-folk imprint Paw Tracks and has since kept the label busy reissuing his body of work, limb by limb.
The fifth and latest reissue, House Arrest, opens with a fitting toast to the popular imagination: "Pop music is free. Free for you and for me," Ariel intones in a sick-witted ode to his chosen form, "Hardore Pops Are Fun." Super-jangly guitars, rippling synths, and huff 'n' puff percussion set things in motion while Ariel begins to unchain melodies and link them into his pop reinvention.
With "Interesting Results," Ariel reflects upon the process of creation like it's a bad habit, only to turn around and celebrate another habit-forming process ("Getting High in the Morning"). Squawking talk-box guitar moves and shakes its way through this wake 'n' bake before Ariel starts monkey-wrenching breezy love songs with non-sequiturs including "me feast on placenta pleasant."
He punctuates House Arrest with an ellipsis of sounds to foreground the next chapter in a never-ending, nouveaux pop epic. And even with little encouragement, it seems certain Ariel Pink will keep creating Haunted Graffiti and dotting his own question mark in an age of exclamation points.