Ariel Pink is bedroom music: the kind of bedroom that parents are afraid to enter. The bedroom of the kid who goes in and out the window at all hours, whose furniture is spraypainted, and whose boombox and four-track are the center of life. The kid who is definitely on drugs. The kid who veers between self-loathing and dreams of glory.
Pink’s sound is heavily filtered through the medium of the cassette 8-track he uses, or used, for home recording. I used to love 4-track recording, so I suppose I’m inclined to be patient with the fuzzy, lo-fi sound that results. Pink exploits the round, elastic edges of analog recording, and the many tracks of sounds, including layered vocals, drums, keyboards, and guitar, all sort of blend together, sculpted through mixing.
All of this is cool, but it’s his songwriting that really drives this album. He’s a master of the unusual chord progression that sort of delays your satisfaction and creates a sense of anxiety, a master of the eerie chorus, catchy verse, and of various vocal persona. Mumbled falsetto, backup high voice, Bee-Gee’s guy, Prince-like squeals, Cobain lyrics.
House Arrest was recorded at Pink’s home in 200-2001 and not released until 2006. “Flying Circles” with its 80’s new wave overtones, was stuck in my head for days. The jangling guitar of “The People I’m Not” really evokes 60’s-era rock. Fractured ballads like “Alisa” and “Helen” are ghostly in the best sense.
A Pitchfork review of this album gripes about Ariel Pink’s artificially cultivated outsider weirdo persona. Maybe the reviewer was just jealous because he wasn’t the one to get picked up on Animal Collective’s label. I hardly think that his deal with Paw Tracks translates into mega-bucks for Ariel Pink, and I’m glad these recordings are available under some kind of release: it should give hope to 4-tracking (or the digital equivalent) recluses across the land. I think that this guy is as genuine as it gets when it comes to bedroom-recording weirdos. I wonder if we’re a little too quick to attribute the faux-naive to artists: maybe what they’re trying to do isn’t in fact drenched in irony, maybe it’s more personal. The strains of nostalgia, grandiosity, and self-referentiality in Pink’s are just the ego which is common to any talented neurotic living in their own private world.