Available on: 4AD 7″
At a time when even the free newspapers on the London Underground are talking about this ker-azy wave of DIY American musicians making nostalgia-leaking pop music from their bedrooms, it’s comforting to see Ariel Pink – the last decade’s king of hauntological pop – return sounding very distinct from those who operate in his legacy.
Ariel Pink – real name Ariel Marcus Rosenberg – made a name for himself in the first half of the noughties with a series of home-brewed pop records, which usually featured him looping drum sounds made with his mouth or other parts of his body, and layering them with keys, guitar chords (amateurishly played, by his own admission), vocals and more. Much of his work is self-released, but his best known albums, The Doldrums and Worn Copy on Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label, were sepia epics that featured both incredibly moving pop songs (‘Grey Sunset’; ‘I Wait for Kate’; ‘Life in L.A’) and deranged passages of tape fuzz and shouting (‘Bloody! (Bagonia’s)’).
Regardless of consistency, they proved incredibly influencial in American indie circles, and remain an inspiration to many of the current Washed Out / Ducktails brand of bedroom pop merchants – many of whom hail from Ariel’s home state of California. About time then, for Ariel to make his return, but the man who declared in late 2008 (I think – the post appears to have been deleted from his myspace) that he was no longer going to hide behind the tape fuzz of his past work, isn’t keeping things lo-fi.
‘Round and Round’, the first Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti single for new label 4AD, might be a clean studio recording but there’s no doubt who’s at the heart of it. The bold harmonies on the track’s intro are new territory, but the mouth-made ‘whoosh’ effect that follows them is classic Pink, as is the shy “break down – break break down” mumble that follows the chorus and the distant drums that close the song. The irony is, for someone famed for the low sound quality of his recordings, Ariel has one of the most affecting voices in modern pop music, and it’s only enhanced by the backing vocals and professional recording level found here. I don’t know how much attention Pink pays to those who he’s influenced, but intentionally or not, he shows them who’s boss here on maybe the most radio-friendly record he’s ever made. Dare I say it, a ‘Josephine’ style extended mix would be sublime.