ALBUM REVIEW: Ariel Pink, Archevil
Updated: Feb 18, 2022
Ariel Pink is an artist who has been operating with the DIY mentality ever since he began recording and releasing music in the ‘00s. After Animal Collective gave him a major boost by signing him to their label, Paw Tracks, he began dropping album after album of archived material. My favorite of the bunch was definitely Scared Famous, including such lo-fi ditties as the raucous “Talking All The Time”. In the same way that we put out a bunch of reviews and are now revamping them on our website with brighter colors and a more clear voice, Ariel banded together a bunch of talented artists under the “Haunted Graffiti” moniker to re-record some of his most stellar past material.
The two projects released under this new name, Before Today and Mature Themes. These are two of the most influential indie rock collections of modern times. “Round and Round” has been deeply praised by many publications, the most prominent of which was Pitchfork, who gave the track the distinction of #31 greatest song of the 2010s. He continued to be a darling, albeit a devious one, with the press on his next two albums, pom pom and Dedicated to Bobby Jameson. I consider pom pom to be a spotless record with the exception of “Sexual Athletics”; it feels divorced from any label expectations and relies wholly on Ariel and his decisions.
Now in 2022, Ariel is back to where he started, completely independent. Rather than retire altogether, I find it admirable that his DIY survival instincts have led him to continue dropping new material. On Archevil, his first new full-length since 2017, is somewhere in the middle between a studio artist and a home recording vagabond. While it is a little more strung out and unfocused than its more polished predecessors, Pink’s timeless songwriting style makes it work. The opener “Nighttime is Great!” is filled with Halloween sound effects, whipped percussion and creeping bass, a welcome back into the fold. The following “Menstrual Mask” utilizes oddball ‘70s melodies and provocative lyricism, “Stop before it's brunch / Our king is fucking”.
This being a non-commercial release, the listener has to pick for themselves what the “singles” are. For me, the deeply personal, high-pitched “Ariel (Friedman)” fulfills the role, calling back to cult classic Pink cuts like “Are You Gonna Look After My Boys?”. It describes him picking up a homeless woman in the most ridiculous, tongue-and-cheek way possible, “she was looking for change, and so was I”. “Nobody Wants The Good Life” with frequent collaborator and CalArts alum John Maus supplies pretty peppy and quick keyboard chords and whistling. “Everybody” has a surprisingly hammy and fun feature from Julia Holter, sounding like a lost ‘80s workout VHS tape, “everybody! Come on, dance and sing!”
To try to pin one genre onto this thing would be a fool’s errand. While “Bogalusa” and “I Can’t Remember My Name” have a similar Beach Boys jangle with a hint of Western destitution, “Archons Of Yaboleth” is a head banging punk rock jam. “Rama Ya” rocks in a similar way, while the MGMT featuring “I’m Nothing Without You” draws from the syrupy doo-wop of the ‘60s. The albums discordant and unkempt aesthetic definitely makes it inaccessible, but we’re AntiArt, since when has “accessibility” ever matter to us? This is a record that hardcore fans of Ariel and his underground work have been looking for, and for us, it is a mostly enjoyable body of work that does away with most of the sheen that made his ‘10 output lean towards pop. Overall, the dust cloud, 3AM graveyard atmosphere of Archevil is a homecoming to Ariel’s earlier work that feels perfect for this point in his career.