The earliest iteration of Ariel Pink's strange magic, material issued under the banner of Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti tended toward particularly lo-fi production and intriguingly contradictory songwriting choices. Later albums released without the Haunted Graffiti distinction would offer a somewhat cleaner reading of Pink's fractured pop sensibilities, but the muted, otherworldly production and unexpected twists of early-2000s albums like The Doldrums and Worn Copy filtered the influence of Bowie, R. Stevie Moore, and '80s FM pop through a haze of psychedelic confusion.
While attending art school in the late '90s, Pink began experimenting with a cassette multitrack recorder. He self-released some of these experiments on homemade CD-R albums as early as 1997, circulating his weird homespun pop in small editions. His first significant collection of Haunted Graffiti material, The Doldrums, was recorded in 1999 and 2000 and presented as a final project for one of his classes. That disc was followed by Vital Pink a few years later. At first, The Doldrums and Vital Pink were only CD-Rs that Pink burned on his home computer and circulated himself, but in 2004 Pink landed a record deal with Animal Collective's Paw Tracks label, making him the first artist on the imprint who didn’t belong to that group. In October 2004, the label reissued The Doldrums, adding the Vital Pink material as well.
Likewise, Worn Copy, which was originally issued by Rhystop in 2003, was reissued by Paw Tracks in 2005. The following year was a busy one for Ariel Pink, with House Arrest — a collaboration with another one of his projects, Ball Bearings Piñatas — arriving at the beginning of 2006. That year, Pink also collaborated with Matt Fishbeck on the Holy Shit album Stranded at Two Harbors and contributed to the Latitude series with Pedestrian Pop Hits. In 2007, Pink released Scared Famous, a collection of 2002 recordings, on Human Ear Music. By 2008, Pink had solidified his backing band to multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Kenny Gilmore, drummer/vocalist/guitarist Jimi Hey, and guitarist Cole M. Greif-Neill; the bandmembers called themselves Haunted Graffiti and toured with Chairlift, the Vivian Girls, and Cryptacize. That year, Pink also released Unusual Animals, Vol. 3 with Half-Handed Cloud, a collaboration that was part of Asthmatic Kitty's limited-edition series.
The following year, Pink signed to 4AD, which released the single "Round & Round" early in 2010. Before Today arrived that summer, revealing a more polished sound than any of Pink's previous work. In 2011, Pink released the 16-minute song "Witchhunt Suite for WWIII," which was previously featured on 2007's tour-only album YAS DuDette, as a single to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11. He also reteamed with R. Stevie Moore on the double album Ku Klux Glam, which appeared early in 2012. In August of that year, the third Haunted Graffiti album, Mature Themes, arrived, boasting a darker, more eclectic approach that spanned '60s bubblegum homages and a cover of Donnie and Joe Emerson's 1979 soul-pop song "Baby." In 2020, two decades after Pink emerged from the underground with The Doldrums, the Mexican Summer label began the Ariel Archives series, reissuing all of his earlier albums. Haunted Graffiti material dating back to the late '90s was given the deluxe reissue treatment, and offered fans a chance to revisit Pink's unglued pop genius in some of its earliest forms. ~ Alex Henderson