Ryeland Allison and Ariel Pink (born Rosenberg) first met around 2002, making each other’s acquaintance through mutual friends and sharing a stage at the now-defunct Los Angeles venue Spaceland. “When I first got to know him in that brief time, I thought he was just a kooky young guy trying to make it in L.A. doing his thing,” Allison says. Now, however, he compares him to avant-garde luminaries Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa. “When he came over to my house, we’d do a little recording and he opened his mouth and started doing this ad-libbed vocal with interesting vocal textures, and it was like, ‘Oh, this is hysterical. I love what he’s doing.’ ”
In the decade since, Allison and Pink have taken very different paths to success in the entertainment biz. The former has been a musician, sound designer, producer and composer on big-budget films such as The Dark Knight, Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man (plus smaller flicks), while the latter has gained notoriety as the ambitious leader of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti and an open-again, closed-again interviewee. After years of cranking out and releasing cheap recording after cheap recording from his bedroom, Pink’s experimenting and tenacity paid off in 2010 with Before Today. Crucial British indie label 4AD issued that record, and the indie-music press bit hard. No less than taste-making juggernaut Pitchfork deemed Before Today’s shape-shifting, daybreak-after-the-disco cut “Round & Round” its top track of 2010, solidifying Pink as someone everyone has to watch. Just this past August, The New York Times dedicated a feature to Haunted Graffiti—certainly not an event that would have happened four years ago.
Today, Allison and the man better known as Pink have a much stronger connection than before, as Allison recently came aboard as Graffiti’s new touring drummer and backing- tracks producer. Although mega-sized films stand out in Allison’s credits, he, too, has a background in playing in bands and using relatively esoteric and experimental techniques for music creation. He calls the work in Haunted Graffiti “some of the most challenging music I’ve ever had to play in my life.” Although he wasn’t part of the recording of Mature Themes, Pink’s ninth and latest record, Allison grows enthusiastic when talking about it. Before praising its “amazing hooks,” he discusses how he initially giggled at how “silly and irreverent” it was considering its “fine sense of humor” with “so many odd fragments of storytelling.”
Allison’s two Mature Themes stand-outs are “Kinski Assassin” and “Schnitzel Boogie,” which both do a good job of justifying why words like “kooky” and “odd” come up when he’s tackling Pink and his discography. “Kinski Assassin” rests upon a fantastic classic-rock riff, a tinny keyboard line and Pink stretching his voice like it’s a piece of bubblegum while maintaining a stoic face the whole time. The lyrics are enticingly absurd and seemingly random, as Pink sings about sinking battleships, masturbators, annihilators, Paris and fondling asses—all without stopping to connect the dots. “Schnitzel Boogie”—a heavily distorted, Sesame Street-like ode to very specific food orders—is five times as weird. Being proudly and profoundly peculiar certainly isn’t all there is to Pink’s sound (for example, Mature Themes has the unexpectedly touching, tranquil “Nostradamus & Me,” too), it’s certainly the niche he’s built his name on.
Allison has been contemplating how he’d contribute to a Haunted Graffiti record should the chance arise, and he already knows that his more conventional instrumentation ideas would require some tweaking. “I’m sure if I did do a real hi-fi orchestra with crazy synths like the stuff I used to do with Hans Zimmer, it’s not going to fit right on top of or mixed in with Ariel’s stuff. Ariel and the guys would have to treat it,” Allison says. “We’d have to look at it a different way—maybe orchestra coming out of a little transistor radio. It could be really high production values being smashed through a really tiny pipe, basically.”
ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI
w/ Dam Funk, Bodyguard
The Urban Lounge
241 S. 500 East
Tuesday, Sept. 25, 9 p.m.