In 2013, whilst shopping on-line, a little thumbnail under ‘customers also bought these albums’ attracted my attention. Somewhere in the purchasing algorithm of Älgarnas Trädgård, Les Rallizes Dénudés and Daughters Of Albion, a strange fish eye lens cover that looked like a missing gem from 1968, grabbed my attention. So I clicked and bought Hair by Ty Segall and White Fence, very much a contemporary release. 5 years later I have over 30 albums by the sprawling universe mapped out by these two fascinating musicians.
Hair still stands not only as a great entry point for the work both Ty Segall and Tim Presley (who is White Fence) but as a fantastic counterpoint to the next collaborative instalment, the freshly released Joy.
Hair explored an exciting and vibrant psych rock, a melting pot of late 60s sixties signifiers that never felt anything other than totally genuine. The woozy Time, slowly morphing into soaring guitars and harmonies is a spectacular opener. Easy Ryder is a blueprint for some slacker lifestyle. And Tongues nails a killer groove that wraps up this 7-song collection in an easy to swallow 30-minute capsule.
So, in some ways, it would be completely fine to have another instalment of two friends getting back into the studio and cranking out a Hair Part 2. But that’s definitely not happened. A whole lot of water has passed under the bridge and the intervening years haven’t had either player running low on ideas. Segall has with almost alarming ease, continued to produce album after album of snarling hook laden rock music. Everything from visceral punk, to highly sophisticated orchestrated rock – even the odd Hot Chocolate version thrown in for good measure. For me though, Presley is the more interesting. He’s slowly grown out of his psych-wrapped tape hiss into a spiky minimal graphic version of pop. Working alongside Cate le Bon, his work has a new surface clarity. With the sonic rubble removed, there is still a wonderful strangeness at the heart of his music.
While Joy itself fits the same 30-minute footprint of its predecessor, that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Joy plays out like a modern interpretation of a host of late sixties albums that impossibly twist and turn at every step. The central idea being that the studio is a place to flesh out dozens of ideas and whittle everything down into a potent twisting hallucinatory suite.
In some ways, many of these twists happen quicker than they’d take to describe. Even the first track covers 4 or 5 distinct sections. Growing out of a slow fade in, Beginning starts out as an odd vocal harmony, then into a drum groove that peels into a glam rock crescendo, quickly unpicking itself – and all within 105 seconds.
Room Connector is a fleeting sonic corridor that leads to the Arthur Lee flavoured Body Behaviour. It’s hard not to consider The Beatles vibe of Good Boy as growing out of a conversation with the dog and cat on the sleeve. The watery explosion of Grin Without Smile, and the doggie growls and manic beat of Other Way, and Prettiest Dog signal the disc gloriously beginning to lose its mind.
Do Your Hair flies off in a charmingly naïve tangent before tripping into She Is Gold. At a shade over 5 minutes, this tune almost falls over itself in the space it has created. The bizarre drumming, the cats-meowing keyboards – before segueing into a headless Tyrannosaurs Rex thrash. Tommy’s Place is another lunatic mantra, complete with whacky electronics tracing the drum.
My Friend, the closer, comes on like the reward at the end of this journey through a pair of burning brains. A lower-case psychedelic torch song with sitar-like treatments. This is the spaced-out ballad acting as the come down. But the real deal comes in the second half of this track. A truly gorgeous Love flavoured groove blooms into HD widescreen. Its beautiful layering fades out to signal the end of this spiky knotted journey, just as the thought occurs you don’t want it to.
Interviewing Presley a year ago, he discussed his preference for:
“putting tuxedos on ugly words and making beautiful words dirty.”
It’s clear this strategy, married with Segall’s creativity helps this album construct a thoroughly welcome but at the same time baffling atmosphere.
Joy is a complex, hard-to-pin-down album for sure, and in many ways another example of the music both Segall and Presley are compelled to make. Joy, like Hair, like DRINKS, like W-X, like The WiNK is zipped into Segall’s Manipulator, Freedom’s Goblin and the second Ty Segall album. Another welcome instalment to add to an ever-growing high-quality pile…
Joy has too many ideas, too many things to try and gives itself a creative mountain to climb – to attempt to the whole thing in no time at all. The results are glorious, absurdly fucked and all the more amazing for it.
Get Joy on LP, CD, cassette and digital here