Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr The first wave of Mexican Summer’s reissue campaign of Ariel Pink’s early recordings gave shape to records that always existed in a state of flux, with fan-made copies and haphazard reissues resulting in varied tracklists and dilapidated sound quality. Underground, Pink’s first LP, and Loverboy, first released in 2002, were belatedly given definitive structures that lent thematic unity to records that often teetered in a space between official releases and bootlegs. The second cycle of Pink’s remasters, however, consists of the three most respected and widely available albums of the artist’s early work: The Doldrums, House Arrest and Worn Copy. As such, these records need no reconfiguration to argue for their greatness, and the music here has simply been fine-tuned. Even so, the results are revelatory, re-introducing the records not as dry runs for the panoramic bedroom pop that would come from Pink’s later, professionally recorded work but truly innovative and form-pushing material. First and foremost, these remasters rectify deep issues with the records’ mixing for release on Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label. The perilous murk that submerged the albums is now revealed to be less the result of Pink’s primitive recording methods than the label’s hasty decision to use degraded tape copies of tracks and even heavily compressed mono mixes of the original stereo masters. Restored to their full breadth, these albums prompt not merely a reconsideration of hotly debated music but a complete re-evaluation of the Ariel Pink mythos. The Paw Tracks releases, blanketed in hiss and limited in dynamic separation, conjured mental images of listening to a car radio as it passed into the crossover area between two different stations each at the edges of their broadcast ranges. Now, however, these records, while still showing off the lo-fi conditions of their recording, contain heretofore unheard depths that speak to the deliberation and ambition that went into their creation. Just listen to the Sgt. Pepper’s-esque busyness of House Arrest’s “Interesting Results” to hear a startling expansion of that track’s massive soundscape, which once sounded like an orchestra being bottlenecked through a tin can on a string but now has a horizontal breadth worthy of how many elements intersect in the composition. Elsewhere on that album, “Every Night I Die at Miyagi’s” chimes like never before, while the title track can now be appreciated for its deliberate swallowing of vocals and riffs amid a dizzying number of angular turns where once it was difficult to tell if it was falling apart due to a tape defect. Pink routinely receives comparisons to Frank Zappa, and in this new and richer form, House Arrest now clearly stands as perhaps the best album the Mothers of Invention never made. The Doldrums, the first Pink album to gain wider traction thanks to Paw Tracks, similarly blossoms. Even in its newly expanded and solidified form, Underground clearly exists as the work of a developing talent still experimenting and wearing influences markedly on his sleeve. Yet The Doldrums, first released a year after his first CD-R, can now be appreciated all the more easily as a quantum leap in songwriting, musical arrangement and recording fidelity. “For Kate I Wait,” the album’s standout track and a love letter to Kate Bush that mingles artistic reverence and fawning crush, once seemed to vanish into the aether due to the poor sound but is now suffused with its full intended bliss. Indeed, all of the first four songs, already a powerful mission statement for Pink as a modern pop genius, now sound every bit as carefully worked over as his professionally recorded, band-backed classics for 4AD and Mexican Summer. And consider the new depths unlocked in the epic “The Ballad of Bobby Pyn.” This 11-minute epic used to be as taxing as it was intriguing, its locked patterns and muffled drones, but now one can hear its contrasting bass tones that underpin its morose, macabre lyrics. Underground was heavily indebted to the likes of Can, but this one track outdoes anything on that album in terms of reflecting the methods and aesthetics of motorik krautrock. The bass in particular is the true star of these remasters. Pink’s post-Before Today work regularly showcases deceptively complex basslines, and now for the first time it’s possible to hear how developed his basswork was on these solo recordings. “Haunted Graffiti” from The Doldrums now reveals that it’s the gurgling low-end, not the fuzzy guitar lick, that truly propels the track. The bass is downright bright on House Arrest’s “West Coast Calamities,” and “Alisa,” one of the few tracks with an audible bass presence on its original release, now adds extra pop to its sprung-coil pattern. In many cases, the increased presence of Pink’s intricate bass lends a sense of direction and unity to tracks that formerly seemed to careen between tempos and styles. The heightened low-end and general clarity reaffirms The Doldrums and House Arrest as worthy of their initial champions, but arguably none of the albums benefits as much as Worn Copy. Overstuffed even by the standards of Pink’s early LPs, Worn Copy ended his initial burst of writing and recording with a frenzy of wildly different songs that often fit together with the awkward sequencing of a vault-clearing compilation over a well-chosen tracklist. Now, however, the record gives the impression of being, naturally, the full realization of Pink’s early, prolific phase, as dramatic a leap in acumen from the other albums in this round of reissues as The Doldrums was from Underground. The songwriting runs the gamut from the sublimely ridiculous (“Credit” setting a goofball send-up of customer-screwing company return policies to an Italo disco collision of danceable bass and mirthless synths) to the delicately keening (“Foilly Foibles/GOLD”). The opening multi-part suite, “Trepanated Earth,” suggests a meeting point between Smile-era Brian Wilson and Yoko Ono, a prog-rock travesty for the ages. If The Doldrums and House Arrest are confirmed as hallmarks of hauntological pop by these reissues, Worn Copy shockingly emerges as their equal, and despite the lack of new tracks it almost seems like a brand new album, and arguably the biggest surprise of this series to date.