On Not Being In Ariel Pink's Haunted Grafitti

Madness is often best left as a spectator sport

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by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: March, 2006
Ariel live seems to be a video snapshot of what its like to create this mayhem in his bedroom studio: punching the drum machine awake, stabbing at the keyboard and pacing around like a caged animal, with a stage persona somewhere between Otis Redding
by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: March, 2006
Ariel live seems to be a video snapshot of what its like to create this mayhem in his bedroom studio: punching the drum machine awake, stabbing at the keyboard and pacing around like a caged animal, with a stage persona somewhere between Otis Redding

Ariel Pink's Haunted Grafitti
House Arrest
(Paw Tracks)

Ariel Pink is kind of a pet project for me critically speaking. I am well aware of the Emprorer's New Clothes in his disjointed post-kareoke nightmare, and how he may not be as savant as he proclaims, or rather, is proclaimed about him. But that's the trouble with all "outsider" art, people get too caught up in the semiotics and the authenticity fetishism to really enjoy or hate the work with any sense of personal honesty. And with a sincere face, I can say I like Ariel Pink's work. I like the patina of madness that tints every AM Gold garbled broadcast coming out of his transistor brain.

His latest sand-shovel-ful from his supposed daunting back catalog of lo-fi jewelry House Arrest is just as delicious as last year's Worn Copy, as desolate and harrowing as The Doldrums the year before. There is a carnival ping-pong aspect to this that is absent from the others, but mostly it is still an echo drenched slab of startling music that comes at you like the ghost of Gino Vanelli haunting a mineshaft. Each record of his has a "hit" and this one is the opener "Hardcore Pops are Fun" a Vince Clark buoyant cheer for the glory of drugs! Hurrah! Though, my personal favorite is the fucked piano ballad "Oceans of Weep" that gets almost jazzy at points with a stolling bass line and wandering piano cometeing with his rainstick-impersonation percussion.

The reason for the above title is that Ariel has a thing going on his current tour where he gets a local act in each city to be his backing band for the second part of his set, and I signed up immediately for it, thinking my marginal guitar work to be perfect to accompany him, but thankfully a local synth pop band Slobot beat me to it. Ariel live seems to be a video snapshot of what its like to create this mayhem in his bedroom studio: punching the drum machine awake, stabbing at the keyboard and pacing around like a caged animal, with a stage persona somewhere between Otis Redding and Max Headroom. Slobot added some balance, some structure to their part of his set, something that I would've been able to do.

My role would have been to merely confound the audience more, making them wish they were back to just one village idiot on stage instead of two. And really, I'm being too hard on the boy. He clearly has a grasp of what he's after. He managed to keep us rapt with just him and a couple machines. The last person to be able to coax as much magic out of a cheap echo pedal was Lee "Scratch" Perry, back before he went truly mad. If anything, I saw that Ariel is very real, that this is no hipster ironic act. Its feral and in a way, inspiring. I'm glad I got to be but a spectator in all this rather than an inept participant, I got to look into his abyss without fear of jumping in with him.

Alex V. Cook
Music Editor

Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com

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