Ariel Pink

Thrash & Burn

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In a number of ways, Thrash & Burn hasn't been the most accessible part of Ariel Pink's body of work. A 90-plus-minute collection of lo-fi works dating back to 1998, HEM first released it as a box of cassettes in 2006, then reissued it on CD in 2013. In the album's liner notes, Pink described it as a "catalog of lifetimes," and it does feel like it's a fairly long way away from his later music. Yet Thrash & Burn isn't as crazed as might be expected given the title and some of his subsequent work. Instead, it plays more like an expansive audio sketchbook, where hints of the chameleonic pop he later pursued on his own and with Haunted Graffiti surface every now and then. There's no escaping that Thrash & Burn is a lot of music to handle all at once, even from an artist as famously prolific as Pink is, although there is some organization to its chaos: the set's first half is dominated by short outbursts, while its second is lengthier and more aggressively noisy. Indeed, these tracks serve as a reminder as to what '90s lo-fi experiments sounded like, and the way Pink embraces and plays with this proudly rough sound recalls early Smog or Mountain Goats. Thrash & Burn is often as noodly as its description suggests, but relatively speaking, it's not that indulgent. The album's sonic palette is simple, focusing on a rudimentary drum machine, keyboard, guitar, and lots of effects, and Pink uses them in ways that are more often blurry than abrasive. Many of Thrash & Burn's shorter numbers blend into each other in a way that almost rivals ambient music in its transporting drones. When Pink indulges his most experimental tendencies, he goes whole hog, as on the self-explanatory "Cry Yourself to Sleep (12 Minute Overture)," which spans weird vocals, musique concrète elements, and washy keyboard passages in its swath. However, it's the more pop-oriented moments that provide Thrash & Burn's standouts, as well as a trail of breadcrumbs to the music he made years later. The cheekiness of "Disguise You," the proto-chillwave of "Nothing at All/Different Names," and the murky psychedelia of "The Andalusian" all resurfaced in more refined forms, while "I Won't See You Again"'s gothy undercurrents and "Pleasure Spot, Pt. 1"'s layering of the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" and "Rock & Roll" show a budding flair for mixing and matching rock tropes. While it's not as dynamic as the music he made just a few years later, fans unfamiliar with this part of Pink's career will probably find it as interesting in its own right as it is for connecting the dots between his past and present.

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