Friday, July 23, 2010
Meanwhile Ariel Pink, having played almost everything himself on records, assembled a backing band. And went on tour. Then started recording new songs. While the attentive listeners were busy wondering whether or not Ariel Pink could ever record a professional sounding album. And even if he does deliver an LP completely devoid of his lo-fi mystique, would he have the same impact without his deliberately poor sound?
Before Today, Pink’s first album with his backup band and sans lo-fi aesthetics, serves to give answers to these questions. One could presume that Ariel Pink’s distinctive 70s soft-rock perversion owes its sharpness and impact due to the deliberately muddy sonics. But what if that kind of material was recorded „as it should be“, would it then show the emperor naked?
Emperor Pink, however, is clad. Best lo-fi acts have always distinguished themselves from others by elements outside the basement sound. And talent. Pink’s melodic flair for songcraft is just as underrated as that of his mentor R.Stevie Moore. Earlier tunes such as „For Kate I Wait“ and „Hardcore Pops are Fun“ left no room for doubt that Ariel Pink is capable of crafting hummable tunes. Pink and comrades are generous with melodic gold even on this album.
And goes without saying that one should not overlook Ariel Pink’s perverse with and (self)irony that is evident in his song titles and lyrics. His soft-rock opuses even here go beyond the level of pure ear-candy – „Round and Round“ is just the kind of AOR anthem that is actually more in line with the aesthetics of Frank Zappa’s Sheik Yerbouti album while „Beverly Kills“ is sophisti-synth-pop performed with a sarcastic grin on face, while being deceptively accessible, is nonetheless pretty elaborately constructed. „Can’t Hear My Eyes“ is the perfect pop tune that nonetheless belies Pink’s attitude that is incompatible with mainstream pop as such.
Generous with (self)irony on one hand and wildly eclectic – from garage rock to punk/grunge to soft-rock, while dropping references from the Beatles (as on „L’Estat“) to JM Jarre (as on the moody synth-instrumental „Reminiscences“) - Before Today indicates that Ariel Pink is a genuine post-modernist eccentric. Thus, he has not lost his edge despite cleaning his sound a bit. He has, however, delivered his poppiest and most concise LP to date.
Original review appeared in Estonian on June 2010 at the Postimees journal as an Album of the Week review.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
The Halo of Nembutals
Since We've Been Wrong
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Part the Second is undoubtedly more listener-friendly than Kayo Dot's Blue Lambency Downward. While that album was almost devoid of metal, then here one can still find elements like shredding solos or double bass drumming. But compared to early works the emphasis is more on what is played, instead of the volume it is played with. PtS also contains less woodwinds than BLD and more piano and strings. Where BLD sounded dark and difficult, PtS sounds more brighter, especially on the album opener with a cumbersomely long title. Toby Driver has earned his status as one of the most inventive composers of modern day progressive music.
Entire album can be downloaded from the official site of the band.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
The record starts out strong. 14 minute title track is a masterful space-prog epic, sounding haunting and transcendent in its multi-sectioned structure, which sounds still coherent, held together by its gloomy mood. Other compositions are also well done, but not on par with the album opener. The album closer, the longest track "Through Time" (17 minutes) deserves attention for its particularly aggressive and apocalypcit synth-rock attack. Overall Zombi demonstrates that there is still some life in progressive rock.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Eccentric pop musician and avant-gardist from LA, Ariel Pink, was warmed up by Galaktlan and his live group, who are rarely seen performing. One different aspect about their gig was the presence of a guest vocalist, Kadi Uibo, for one of the songs. Galaktlan's quartet played a short set, for approximately 40 minutes.
Shortly before 10pm Ariel Pink made it on the stage with his backup band Haunted Graffiti. The protagonist was dressed in drag (with red skirt and all), his stage movement was chaotic and coggling and his between song stage banter was mostly stream-of-consciousness type nonsense. Just by his stage presence, marked by special feel of drunkenness, it was clear that Ariel Pink is a truly eccentric musician type.
Pure garage rock
In case of musicians with distinctive (home) studio sound one always wonders, how will they sound live? In the five member performance of Haunted Graffiti, Ariel Pink's lo-fi pop-psychedelia gained a heavy garage punk exterior. The band could sound like an authentic obscure garage rock band from the 60s, while having little to nothing in common with today's neo garage rock imitators.
Some of the tunes in the live setting, such as "Trepanated Earth" acquiered at places a level of intensity compared to heavy metal, or at least Boredoms type noise-rock. It also seemed that Haunted Graffiti can easily out-punk most punkrockers, if they want to. In terms of dissonance, synthesizer sounds and improvisational implications there was also some affinity to krautrock. A rare rendition of the rarely performed "Life In LA", where the clarinets of the album version were replaced by kazoos, suggested Zappa style weirdness.
All of these stylistic nuance variations refer to the music critic consensus that in Ariel Pink's music one can recognize quite a bit of which has been intriguing and inventive for the last five decades in underground rock. It was particularly evident on this concert. Which was really long, over two hours, including many songs that Haunted Graffiti usually does not perform. And arguably this was even crazier than Ariel Pink's average gig.
This gig was a rare case in Estonia not only because of seeing an act at his peak live. But also because the public got the taste of how eccentric the best sort of underground-rock can get. A lot of contemporary acts seems so restrained, compared to the exuberant charisma imbuing from Ariel Pink's stage presence. Then again, imitating him would also prove itself as a pointless perspective. Because natural authenticity (which Pink had plenty) is impossible to copy successfully.