Review Summary: Ariel Pink blurs his maniacal lo-fi techniques with elevated pop material creating a senseless, yet all the more enjoyable contradiction.
Ariel Pink's sound is not about lulls of cheesily effected psych-pop guitars. It's not about his purposeful "lo-fi" sound and the distortion and manipulation of the pop structure. Nay, his spastic and diverse sound is rooted in what is a formulaic concept, and that is clashing nostalgia with his twisted, home-recorded personality. Of course all the of the previous mentioned aspects are ultimately the product of this formula, but the historic pop music he steals from is constantly mutating along with Ariel's intellectualized viewpoint of music. As Ariel's talking points range from an empirical analysis of nostalgia, to his claims of pornography being "the transcendence of medium" it starts to make sense why he would write a one and a half minute AM jingle attacked by cartoon monologues and dissonance. It's less about him being a bored home-recorder, but more about the science of the unabashed incorporation of spontaneity for the personalized touch on a nostalgic backdrop.
puts an increased focus on his nostalgic tendencies, which more or less resulted in a limited amount of random quirks and freak-out bits of noise. That's not to say that it's by any means a pop record; The LP starts out with a stream-of-conscious elevator jazz piece, followed by a cover. But Before Today
finds Ariel Pink picking and selecting through his endless collection of home recorded pieces and applying them to his newer lo-fi emulation of various New Wave and Bubblegum bands alike. Can't Hear My Eyes has been part of his repertoire for most of his career, and it's presence on the new album has switched from a dreary dream pop song to a fusion, late 80s ballad with absolutely no eccentricities, with the exception of the "aha" aspect of an obscure indie artist interpolating irrelevant commercial styles of the past. Both L'estat and Round & Round are wonderfully layered tracks that successfully incorporate a wide range of genres from early 70s soul, to disco, to very Arther Russel-esque moments. Of course Ariel still meddles in his freak folk associated oddities, but they transcend each track, as opposed to making an unlistenable mess of it.
If the abandonment of his less structured, tomfoolery based material equates to anything, it's the sheer naked basis of Ariel's awkwardly presented pop tunes. While the sound is refined and ready to be listened to beyond the bounds of the hipsterverse, there's still a clear separation of totally psych-pop grandiose production, to what is still his home-recorded and unfocused approach. The instrumental quality is still relatively cheap and the arrangements sound lazily nostalgic at moments which keeps Before Today
from getting anywhere near pop perfection. But the quirks and shifts through Ariel's cartoonish interpolations of a range of forgotten pop genres remind us that this is not what Ariel is here for. Within the album there are sparse moments of truly blissful, zany moments picking up anywhere from Animal Collective, to unpredictable guitar changes that alienate the pop sounds that he emulates. So is Before Today
really that different from his older albums? Nope. The objective of blurring his love for old pop jingles and his unstoppable, spontaneity-based touches on the pop structure is as present as ever. It just happens to be more accessible and a thousand times more enjoyable.