Billed as an acoustic gig, Ty Segall’s one-off show at the Scala in King’s Cross soon turned into a rollercoaster ride in the spirit of an earnest psychedelia experiment. The structured, well-crafted songs from his latest album, Sleeper, were soaked in psych-fuzz, reverb, vocal harmonies, handclaps and underscored by elemental punk drumbeats. The album was played in track-list order, ending with an impeccable cover of Love’s ‘Live and Let Live’.
While Segall’s band remained seated, suggesting connotations of folky informality, the music defied any fixed reference point. Indeed, Ty and his virtuosic musicians revved up the audience for this ostensibly acoustic gig into crowd-surfing mosh-pit frenzy; an occasional electric guitar even found its way into the mix.
This was rock at its most basic and distilled, displaying a primal musical intelligence: The Stooges meet Sabbath meets Syd Barratt meets Bolan meets the Surfaris meets Blue Cheer meets Neil Young meets Flipper meets Nation of Ulysses. While that list might read as a genre cocktail of reverence and geekdom, it’s difficult to actually talk about Ty’s music without some mention of influence and lineage. Past, present and future collide in his music, and he is having fun making it. It’s that energy which propels the music beyond pastiche.
There were moments during the show when I seemed to experience parallel visceral musical universes converging, bringing together the disparate points of reference from the framework of my musical experience, from New York’s CBGB to Olympia, [Washington] to London to San Fran, in no linear order, colliding, Hadron-like into in a musical psycho- geographical gestalt. A slippage of the signified, a physical, biological, psychological or symbolic configuration or pattern of elements so unified that its properties cannot be derived from a simple summation of its parts. Is this an evolutionary moment in rock’n’roll? Am I healed?
Yet, in this digital age, can sound be geographically pinpointed? In this contemporary realm of hyper compressed mp3s, of Internet music that appears then disappears from the cultural landscape in an interval of hours, how relevant is this mapping? Some say Ty is the torch bearer of a new West Coast sound, if that’s possible, anchoring him back to his roots – he is, after all, a Laguna Beach surfer-garage-psych-punk guru, presently residing in in San Francisco.
Perhaps if anything provides a direct return to earth, it’s that Ty’s signal is louder and the reverb dirtier than those of his antecedents. Death By Audio even created a limited edition of 100 of their Sunshine Reverberation effects pedal last year, inspired by Ty Segall (apologies, it is of course sold out, but it’s on my eBay watch lust). Perhaps the protean Segall, 26, guitarist, drummer, vocalist, songwriter, engineer, prodigious recording artist, with over 24 solo and collaborative releases to his name in less than five years, a one-man band and also member of half a dozen other outfits, supersedes any over-fed digital consumption. His mystique is maintained. Not only does he stay a oat and visible, he is riding some Paci c Ocean wave, in aerial. But what does he eat for breakfast?
Ty’s live shows, continuing output and defiance of historical references shatters the edifice of current sub-standard, stagnant, manufactured pop music. Rock’n’roll doesn’t tell you what to think and do. In its most pure and vital state it makes you feel like your only choice is to go and start a band.
I left one of the best gigs I have ever experienced in a blissed- out haze, amazed that I feel like I am 17, an infinite fan gliding on a force field of volume, reverb and the pure elemental joy of rock’n’roll. Ty Segall is changing music forever. Soon everyone will know.
Ty Segall’s Sleeper is out now on Drag City.