Following Ty Segall closely is a much different experience from following most artists. The man with a seemingly endless supply of guitar riffs has been steadily growing a fan base over the past couple years with his straightforward, garage-punk sound aesthetic and hardcore style of rocking venues across the continent. Each new work of his seems to come straight out of the jam room heavy with improvisation, bordering on the incomplete, and emphasizing the live performance. The quick-fire nature of his album releases has led to a back catalogue with streaks of both brilliance and monotony, however, through the application of advanced production technics on his signature fuzz guitar and freakish vocal delivery, Segall seems to have struck gold with his 2016 release Emotional Mugger.
A good summary of Segall’s personality comes from the tale of Emotional Mugger’s release. Segall sent the album over to infamous reviewing website Pitchfork in the form of a VHS tape, which in the year 2016 results in a hilarious array of irony, arrogance, and sarcasm. In a way, this statement perfectly describes the music provided on that VHS tape. The album opens with “Squealer,” a Zepplin-esque rock song with power chords and basic lyrics where attitude is the name of the game. The slow tempo and open drumming pattern combine with Segall’s baritone voice perfectly as he rips through some killer guitar solos and funny lyrical moments such as, “let’s make a child like a bedroom all full of stuff.” As the album presses forward, Segall exposes more varying rhythmic ideas and his obscure falsetto vocal range. The Halloween-town influenced melody on “Breakfast Edge” is sung at high and low frequencies with a slightly syncopated 6/8 ensemble rhythm. On “Diversion,” Segall fuses a somewhat surf-rock sounding song base with his dripping fuzz-guitar heaviness. Although the album doesn’t seem to let up from its overall intensity, each song finds uniqueness in songwriting strategies and presentation.
Commercial musical artists generally release an album every two to four years. This allows the record to be discovered by a wide field of listeners as the band goes on tour. More importantly, a break between releases gives the band time to ponder their new compositions and find room for progress in their sound. Segall’s active mind has resulted in a lot more albums than the average artist, however, the progress in his sound aesthetic is happening at about the same rate. The album Slaughterhouse from Segall’s band in 2012 signified an establishment of a certain sound with quiet, high pitched vocals and distorted guitar sounds that carried him through another release in that year and two in 2013. The connections betweenSlaughterhouse, Twins, and Fuzz (a collaborative project involving Segall) are relatively obvious, all quickly rip and roll through punk rock tunes with emphasis on guitar soloing and intensity. The 2013 album Sleepercould be seen as an album with a new sound conception because of its mostly acoustic nature, however, it still feels like Segall was writing these songs in the same place and it still rounds out to another 35 minute punk effort. The year 2014 had Segall thinking big with his album Manipulator. Keyboards, backing vocals, and a longer running time combined with more complex songwriting to establish a new era in the life of Ty Segall. Last year we heard another rocking effort from his project Fuzz and an old reissue entitled Ty Rex, which left his followers ready for a new evolution in sound this year.
The pivotal sound decision on 2016’s Emotional Mugger has to be the production. Segall seems to have epitomized panning by juxtaposing parts of the song against each other on opposite sides of the speaker. Sometimes there will be a guitar solo on the right side while keyboard sounds fill out the soundscape of the left ear. In the middle of songs he’ll move all of the vocals right, then left, then back centre. Specifically, the panning on “Candy Sam” pivots in this way. During the lyrics “Candy Sam” the drums and rhythm guitar can only be heard on the right side and the vocals are in melodic unison across octaves. When Segall’s high falsetto bellows the words “I want some, I want some” the drums rapidly switch sides and distorted bass gains presence over the guitar chords. With the amount of layers involved, the panning allows the album to have more dynamic contrast. If everything that was going on was centered the whole time the album would round out to messy wall of sound, but instead Segall maintains intrigue by showcasing different sounds at different parts of the song. Also, the more musical approach to Segall’s punky style seems to have combined different aspects of his history. The in-your-face intensity ofSlaughterhouse clashes with the symphonic songwriting of Manipulator, thus ringing in a new era of Segall.
Emotional Mugger is an important moment for Segall fans. Although Ty never really leaves the college radio scene between album releases, his fast paced album schedule doesn’t always provide the world with a whole new sound conception. The year 2016 will probably go down as an important year in his career with the establishment of an album that includes both complex production technics and high intensity garage rocking. It would be reasonable to predict that in two to four years another truly pivotal Segall record will be released and before then he’ll rock out again with his Fuzz band and probably email something really strange to Pitchfork.
-Review by Donovan Burtan