Ariel Pink is an oddity. At this point, he’s best known for his affiliation with Animal Collective (he was the first non-Collective member on the Paw Tracks label), but few people heard his 2004 proper debut, The Doldrums. Pink, based out of some basement in the Los Angeles hills, makes the lowest of low-fi recordings, tumbling together smooth melodies and noise into warm but foreign textures. Using guitar/keys/bass/vocals and apparently his mouth for percussion, Pink sifts through the sounds of seventies radio, coming out sounding like early Beck, if Beck were Gary Wilson’s nephew.
Worn Copy offers more of what The Doldrums brought to the table. Eleven-minute opener “Trepanated Earth” fades in on keyboards lifted from Boards of Canada and shifts through three movements. At times it’s bombastic — shouting “the human race is a pile of dog shit!” is one of the highlights — at others it mimics classic radio rock. This and many of Worn Copy’s seventeen tracks feel what it feels like to swim through a lukewarm pool, where warm spots mingle with jarring ice-cold patches. “Immune 2 Emotion” is a low-fi pop treasure, and “Jules Lost His Jewels” would sound at home on Ween’s Pure Guava, hitting the same vocal pitch as “Push the Little Daisies” does.
But at times there are elongated non-sequiturs that, although they are challenging, tend to beg questions like this: Why so much, and when will it get exciting again? This aesthetic has come close to perfection before; the jumping around and general cut and splice of sounds, coupled with the low-fi home recording and excessive tracks, brings mid-career Guided by Voices to mind. Yet where Bee Thousand was like-minded in its excess of pop melodies, tape hiss and random interludes, it kept them brief and snappy. Worn Copy tends to drone on to the point where it’s hard to remember what worked.
But for all its problems with grandiosity, the effect is memorable, and the prolific Pink succeeds in creating mood pieces for moods we rarely find ourselves in. It would be nice to see him harness the dozens of sounds swirling through his head, but it’s pretty clear that coherence is in no way his style.