Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti project is easy to pass off simply as lo-fi. But instead of songs that sound as if they were recorded on answering machines or in bathroom stalls, Pink strives to replicate a fanciful roughness that sounds like full orchestrations manhandled, manipulated, dipped in acid and squashed into lo-fi bikini bottoms for their High Times photo shoot. If Pink’s third Paw Tracks release, House Arrest, a re-release of tracks that were recorded and pressed in 2002, is a variation on Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, which it seems to hint at during such tracks as “Helen,” we’d be able to topple the damn thing like Jenga.
Maybe it’s a product of this Los Angeles-bedroom-based musician, born Ariel Rosenberg, having recorded more than five hundred songs to tape since 1995, or maybe it’s simply the nature of his Pink’s crinkly psychedelic swirls of sound. But House Arrest suffers from appearances of lethargy, which translates into a lack of importance. Pink’s hard work (he plays all the instruments and beat-boxes many of his drum sounds) does not translate and, thus, it feels frivolous.
On classic lo-fi records, such as Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand or the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat, the poor recording quality acts to enhance the performers’ phenomenal songwriting, not distract from it. From Beat Happening to Beck to Devendra Banhart, the lo-fi-ness adds to the appeal of these musicians by complementing their particular styles. That Pink uses a MT8X Yamaha eight-track cassette recorder should not be the focal point of his music. But it is because his skill as a songwriter is so limited – recycling riff after riff and rhythm after rhythm – that it is difficult to look past how bored and redundant Pink sounds throughout House Arrest.
Briefly, on “Every Morning I Die at Miyagis,” Pink eliminates most of the random noises and echo-effect garbage and allows tender (and dare I say catchy) melodies to shine. Pink seems to have the talent, but it feels like what he’s most interested in is getting stoned and making music to accompany the next time he gets stoned. Call me dense for not seeing past the production, but what’s beneath fails to make itself apparent for anyone to care enough to look deeper.