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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today

The alternative pop/rock and lo-fi recordings of Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti are full of intrigue -- and full of contradictions. Pink, a male singer, composer, musician, and producer who is based in Los Angeles, provides songs that are melodic, catchy, and familiar -- songs that, in their own unorthodox way, recall the most immediate, accessible, straightforward FM pop/rock of the '70s and '80s. But Pink's work also comes across as bizarre, trippy, skewed, and twisted -- and a lot of that strangeness comes from his production style. As a songwriter, Pink has a real sense of pop/rock craftsmanship, but his very muddy way of producing and his oddball, kooky sound effects make the late-'90s and early-2000s recordings of Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (which is really the name of a project, not an actual group) sound highly eccentric.

At times, Pink (who plays guitar, bass, and keyboards) sounds like he is singing into a mono cassette recorder in a basement or a garage back in 1977 -- he really goes out of his way to sound as under-produced and demo-like as possible. But once you get past his production style, it becomes apparent that Pink has strong pop/rock instincts (sometimes adding a touch of blue-eyed soul). The southern Californian brings a long list of influences to the table -- influences ranging from David Bowie, John Lennon, the Bee Gees, Hall & Oates, and the Raspberries to Frank Zappa, Brian Eno, Roxy Music, and late-'70s/early-'80s new wave. Some of Pink's melodies wouldn't have been out of place on Bowie's Station to Station album in 1976; some of them would have worked well for A Flock of Seagulls, Men at Work, or Talking Heads in the early '80s. But because Pink's production style is so quirky and off-center, those comparisons may not come as easily to listeners who don't have a taste for the bizarre -- and depending on who you talk to, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti is either mindlessly self-indulgent studio masturbation or the work of an insane musical genius. There are some listeners who just plain don't comprehend what he is doing, but the small cult following that Pink acquired in the late '90s and early 2000s tends to be highly enthusiastic -- Pink's admirers really swear by him and insist that there is a method to his madness.

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti release "Before Today" on June 8, 2010, in which we presemt "Round and Round" from that release.

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