The Doldrums - Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti (2000)
Part of Ariel Pink’s early, self-released era, this AP classic appeared first in 2000 as a CD-R, and then four years later as an official Paw Tracks release. Here we look at the original track listing, sans the Vital Pink appendix. *
Start with: "For Kate I Wait" and "Gray Sunset"
Why it’s worth revisiting: The Doldrums is arguably the most consistent example of Ariel Pink's early and prolific era of composing and home recording. While sonically still consistent with his home recordings around the turn of the century and millennium, it invites endearment with accessible songs like "For Kate I Wait", "Gray Sunset".
“Good Kids Make Bad Grown Ups” sets the album’s tone with its hazy, dreamlike, and fragmented character, and “Strange Fires” lures the listener even further down the atmospheric and hypnogogic rabbit hole. The ephemeral and lo-fi backdrop remains firmly intact on “Among Dreams”, though the composition and performance are upbeat and inviting. “For Kate I Wait” is one of the collection’s high points, and justifiably a fan favorite years after its first appearance.
“Haunted Graffiti” captures the zeitgeist of this era of Ariel Pink’s recordings with its opaque lyrics defying effortless intelligibility, evocative atmosphere, and abrupt transitions from sectionto section. The Doldrums reaches another rewarding peak (albeit understated and laid-back) with “Gray Sunset”. In retrospect, it’s quite remarkable that AP was composing and recording something so distinct like this at the millennium shift.**
Title track “The Doldrums” enjoyably sways almost like a bossa nova through the fuzzy, dreamy sonic lens AP provides, ever so slowly dissipating until the dream becomes a memory. There is a certain majestic air to “Envelopes Another Day”, especially in the recurring theme accompanied by the repeated lyrics "In the grave silence". The Doldrums concludes with “The Ballad Of Bobby Pyn”. The hypnotically vamping track, which clocks in at almost eleven minutes long and teases with nearly impenetrable lyrical content, is well-placed and fitting as the final installment in this early group of Ariel Pink recordings.
Happy listening, weirdos!
*John Maus wrote in 2012: “On that 2005 Paw Tracks reissue Ariel added a thing called Vital Pink, but this Vital Pink was everything he did in between The Doldrums and Underground (e.g. “Young Pilot”, “Crying”, “The Bottom”, etc.). This isn’t The Doldrums, it is its own thing”
**Regarding this point, John Maus wrote in his same communication to Ben Cannan in 2012, “I don’t think most people realize that The Doldrums was originally released in 2000. Just like I don’t think a lot of people realize several of the musicial he influenced rose to a level of visibility much more significant than his before Before Today allowed him to join them. This, of course, created this weird disorientation in the narrative, where is supposed to have been influenced by them, etc. etc. All this is to make the point…Crazy as it might sound…that I still don’t think he’s gotten his due, that is, in the sense that /his/ decade will probably be proved to have been the last one. Underground was in 1999. And I am always telling people, ‘You had to hear Undergound in 1999 to /hear/ Undergound.’”