Album review: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – ‘Before Today’ (4AD)

Ariel Roseberg's first un-homemade record proves surprisingly light relief from bin and fax noise

A fanatical creator, Ariel Rosenberg’s musical history is better known than the musician himself. Rosenberg spent the better part of eight years living in LA, making corrugated cardboard bedroom recordings, beatboxing instead of using drums, writing and recording constantly. Rumour has it that there are dustbins full of excess tapes, never to be heard. A chance meeting with [a]Animal Collective[/a] lead to his band – [a]Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti[/a] – being signed to the Paw Tracks label.

But, with an aesthetic that so vitally hinges on production (Rosenberg says “Why play live at all?”) does ‘Before Today’, his first un-homemade record, represent a step in the right direction for Ariel Pink? Has a studio sound improved the tracks? Or was the ‘pop art’ of the rubbish recording all that was worth noticing?

To begin with, while the sound is a million times clearer from the fuzzy tape hiss of yore, it’s still not CD-perfect. Now, the clarity is chill-wave level rather than that of a tape that had been dropped in a bath, then dried with
a hairdryer. And, more importantly, the songs sound better than ever.

Rosenberg’s mad scientist tendencies come to the fore here. While fans may recognise tracks such as ‘L’estat (Acc. To The Widow’s Maid)’ and ‘Can’t Hear My Eyes’ from previous compilations, they’ve now been updated, and reworked for a full band. The murky pop sensibility that had previously reared its head in tracks such as ‘Alisa’ and ‘Kate, I Wait’ now resounds clear. The tail end of ‘Round And Round’ recalls Deacon Blue’s ‘Fergus Sings The Blues’, and ‘Can’t Hear My Eyes’ is almost Hall & Oates – if they read the Hipster Runoff blog. ‘Friday Night (Nevermore)’ picks up on the best of the past efforts, while ‘Little Wig’ is [a]Queen[/a], via [a]Toro Y Moi[/a]. Comparisons to other bands are slightly redundant, however. Rosenberg’s always been in a league of his own. Now, though, it seems that, despite his inclinations otherwise, for once Ariel Pink might actually be cool.

Ailbhe Malone

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Click here to get your copy of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti’s ‘Before Today’ from the Rough Trade shop.