Ty Segall has, in a relatively short time, created a dizzying pile of recordings. He is a serial collaborator, band member, band leader, solo artist, producer, and performer. However long his hair, silver his make up, or disturbing his baby mask, he’s consistently found a groove from a pared-back psych-tinged driving-rock template.
Only once so far in his expanding discography has he offered up a highly polished expanded vision of his universe in the form of 2014’s Manipulator.
More regularly, he opts for capturing a rawer sound, which gives his music a fuzzed-out and immediate feel. And he always, seemingly effortlessly, creates highly effective grooves that seem so potent you’ll wonder why no one thought of them before. Sure, his music makes you think of several ’60s and ’70s artists, but he’s always managed to channel these influences rather than merely trace them.
I was lucky to catch Segall live last year in Scotland (at Glasgow School of Art). As well as thoroughly enjoying seeing him play, it was the first time I’d been back to the place I’d studied in several years previously, and my mind wandered back to my younger days.
Almost all his albums feel like aural sketchbooks rather than laboured attempts at masterpieces.
As a sculpture student, I often got way more excited about the immediacy of initial ideas.
Somehow, the redrawing into more realised actual “finished pieces” never really captured the dynamism of the original moment of inspiration. It seems taking Segall’s work as a whole, almost all his albums feel like aural sketchbooks rather than laboured attempts at masterpieces.
Ty Segall is his first musical statement of 2017, and has the most wafer-thin of packaging. Segall often appears in portrait form on his albums, but this grainy, grey portrait of him looking groundwards seems particularly throw-away.
It’s also the second time we have been offered Ty Segall as an album title. First time around was understandable as his marvellous basement-style debut. No need for anything more that the basics, or anything as flabby as an actual title for this collection.
However, this new disc seems to point towards a more varied collection of approaches. Within its opening second, Break A Guitar floats around ideas of fame, weather, and destruction, and descends into all sorts of guitar gymnastics. It’s pretty close to an exercise in “heavy rock guitar” in my book, and feels like a red-herring of an opener.
Freedom is a different and far more welcoming sound to my ears — underpinned by an acoustic groove that twists into Tyrannosaurs Rex freak-out land.
It flies along at light speed, yet all the while the complexity is mapped out in exhilarating precision.
Talkin’ feels like a demo from Sea Change-era Beck, and its country swagger feels like an attempt at something we haven’t heard from Segall before.
Orange Color Queen recalls a hazy psychedelic morning that grows into an unashamed love song, complete with The Man Who Sold the World-flavoured Bowie flourishes…
However, the most revealing moment that tantalises at a new approach is Papers. Here the song gravitates around a beautiful a piano element. The song’s instrumentation tumbles around and eventually peels away, leaving just a piano and drum, and for a few fleeting moments, Segall takes the listener into a glorious passage reminiscent of the beauty Jim O’Rourke or Bill Fay mastered.
And finally, we approach the end of the album with the type of song that you’d often find on late ’60s psych albums — the child-like playground anthem Take Care (To Comb Your Hair).
Segall’s newest offering is as gloriously patchy as everything he has released. Different ears will pick up on different elements, but for me, hearing new and previously unexplored spaces in his music has once again got me totally hooked.
Ty Segall is out on January 27 on Drag City. Pre-order here on LP, CD, and digital or visit your local record shop.
— By John J Nicol. Top Image by Kyle Thomas.