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Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, ‘House Arrest’ (Paw Tracks)

Remember in The Wall when no matter how high poor Pink got, he couldn’t break free from the bricks, and the worms ate into his brain? Well, imagine those were the kind of worms that sang Beach Boys harmonies. That’s probably what’s burrowed into the head of Ariel Pink, a 27-year-old California dreamer whose nom de tape suggests the wiggy offspring of Syd Barrett and Shakespeare’s shape-shifting Tempest sprite. He’s a human aerial, too, making eight-track pop that snags ’70s AM radio fragments from the ether of collective memory. These concoctions get drug-smudged with off-time lyrics and happy-hippy percussion that periodically kicks in with a smoked-out Concert for Bangladesh propulsion. As to whether Ariel Pink is as outsider-art crazy as he sounds, does it matter if his music is a schizoid jumble or just the genius hum of a crammed cranium? His champions in Animal Collective don’t split hairs, so why should you?

Admittedly, Ariel Pink’s debut, The Doldrums, was a rabbit-hole trip, but House Arrest has more what you might call “songs.” The best one, “Interesting Results,” pokes fun at both puffed-up critics and deluded slacker artistes: “Every time I sit down and I try / I get interesting reeeee-sults!” The best part is, that’s kinda true. “West Coast Calamities” catalogs nonhardships like “too much breeze and sunshine,” while “Gettin’ High in the Morning” exuberantly states the obvious. If there’s melancholy here, it’s in the title track, where Pink implicitly admits that memory can be cacophonous. In “The People I’m Not,” he laments his shifting self, his compressed falsetto making it all sound like Bread in a bread-box. But when he sings “This. Is. Not. Trying,” our ambient egomaniac intentionally protests too much. Living is always “trying,” in both senses of the word. And you get the feeling that Ariel Pink lives to try.

SEE ALSO: R. Stevie Moore, Phonography (Flamingo, 1976)