Ariel pink was hanging in obscurity in the LA hills until he handed a demo of material recorded in 1999/2000 to the members of Animal Collective. They were so impressed that they broke with precedent and offered to issue his work on their own label. There are key points of similarity between Ariel and AC?preoccupations with childhood (“Good Kids Make Bad Grown Ups”) and campfires, a general feeling of regression that is characteristic of 21st-century outcrops of psychedelia. Beyond that, however, Ariel Pink languishes alone. Although these two albums were recorded on 8-track, their range, volatility and Simultaneist overload sounds like The Beatles circa 1967, The Human League, FM radio’s Hall Of Fame, Phil Spector, Tiny Tim and the great R Stevie Moore all frolicking at once in an acid bath in his own head. Ariel’s vocals are adrift, bobbing up all over the place in the mix, now a distant cry on the horizon, now right up nose to nose with you, and, on “Haunted Graffiti”, crawling right up into your ear canal.
Tracks like “Among Dreams”, on which Ariel sounds like he’s swimming in his own brain, shouldn’t work?so rambling, so amateurish. Yet somehow they have a way of lapsing perfectly into misshape, so that you can’t take your ears off them. “Strange Fires” sounds like Babybird’s “You’re Gorgeous” regurgitated (indeed, as lo-fi troves go, this is comparable with the shock of first coming on BB’s early, long-unreleased work). But “The Ballad Of Bobby Pym” crowns the collection, one of those sunshine-after-the-rain moments you experience too occasionally both in music and in life.
The six short tracks of Vital Pink (on the same disc) are less multiple, with less slipping and sliding, offering relative respite. Great musical ideas apportioned one or two at a time, rather than in the nines and tens. Still, it testifies to an idea that the spirit of pop and rock past can only be recaptured by returning to the meagre studio means of yesteryear, rather than drearily hi-tech recording methods which clog every sonic pore. As Pink proves, it’s the perfect way to access the frightening no-limits of the imagination.