For the best part of a decade, Los Angeles native Ariel Rosenberg (b. 1978) has been carving some of the most intoxicating music going, a reclusive pop surrealist whose corroded productions have led to a cult following that has often been difficult to keep up with. Now signed to 4AD, Before Today, the label debut for Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti is released this week.
With roots going back as far as 1996, the West Coast act are as sublime as they are surreal with a sound loaded with hazy nostalgia and a fiercely experimental pop palette. From the Haunted Graffiti series (from which the full band’s name is now derived), which featured the likes of Worn Copy (2005) and House Arrest (2006), Ariel Pink has established himself as one of the most prolific songwriters of his generation, a visionary producer in the vein of Joe Meek and Ariel’s hero and previous collaborator, tape deck dilettante, R. Stevie Moore.
To date Pink’s most celebrated release – and one that summarises the erratic nature of his output, pieced together from various periods – is The Doldrums, released on Animal Collective’s imprint, Paw Tracks in 2004, yet recorded and mixed by Ariel in his bedroom on an 8-track in the late ‘90s.
No longer a bedroom venture, Haunted Graffiti is now a fully realised band, comprised of Kenny Gilmore (keys/guitar/vocals), Aaron Sperske (drums/vocals) and Tim Koh (bass/vocals), all characters from the underground LA scene.
The initial sessions for Before Today took place at Encino at the House of Blues studio (once Tito Jackson’s home studio) before additional tracking at the band’s home studios. The album took nearly six months to complete, with around half of the record completed with Sunny Levine at the dials (the rest being self-produced and recorded). Rik Pekkonen, the engineer for the House of Blues sessions, has previously recorded many great 70’s acts including Bill Withers, Seals & Crofts and Bread, all on show as Before Today muddles glam rock, West Coast funk and Merseybeat harmonies.
For such a unique act, Haunted Graffiti manage to weave such a beguiling range of influences into their music. They can veer from the demented heavy metal of ‘Butt-House Blondies’ to the classic synth-rock of ‘I Can’t Hear My Eyes’, ‘Revolution’s A Lie’ with its pulsating motorik tints to their cover ‘Bright Lit Blue Skies’ (originally recorded by the Rocking Ramrods in 1966).