Release Date: Aug 2, 2019
Record label: Drag City
The Californian clever-whatever is something of a Renaissance man, with a back catalogue extensive enough to rival the yellow pages. The multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter has amassed no less than ten studio albums - not to even begin to enter upon his live albums, EPs and various projects in other bands. His capacity for producing music seems uncontrollable, and his love of it limitless.
By giving his new record the title First Taste, Ty Segall is fully aware of the expectation he's putting in people's minds. It is pretty much an impossibility to try to number the projects and albums he's put out, but his solo studio albums stand up as the imperative listens in his sprawling catalogue. First Taste comes 18 months after Freedom's Goblin (which is actually quite a long gap for Ty), and by naming it this way he's setting up the expectation that this is going to be a fresh sound for him.
Ty Segall races through ideas as though they'd disappear if he didn't commit them to wax as soon as possible. The records pile up: In 2018, he expanded his vast discography by four albums, and earlier this year added a noise-drenched live album called Deforming Lobes for good measure. First Taste, his first studio set since last year's sprawling double-LP Freedom's Goblin, suggests Segall may be warming to the concept of restrictions.
The eleventh album by chameleonic California songwriter Ty Segall finds him combining a broad range of instruments in a way that only a true maverick could make work. Japanese koto, Greek bouzouki and mandolins are mixed with fuzz bass grooves and choral vocals to create a debauched orchestra of technicolour garage rock on 'First Taste', an album that finds the prodigious artist enjoying himself yet again. Superb introductory track 'Taste' opens with a drum solo before blasts of horns, throes of bass and timpani rhythms catapult it towards a fuzzed-out peak.
Ty Segall spent so much of 2018 cranking out albums and bringing the rock in a big way that one can forgive him for slowing down a bit and turning the volume down in 2019. First Taste sounds like that's just what Segall chose to do. It's a more tuneful and less aggressive set of songs than Freedom's Goblin, Joy, or Fudge Sandwich, with Segall easing up on his monolithic guitar attack and focusing more on pop melodies and folk-rock structures in his songs and arrangements.
G arage rock made with saxophone, mandolin, Japanese koto and bouzouki? Most garage-inclined albums, even those of the psychedelic persuasion, don't often leave the traditional band configuration. First Taste - which might be Ty Segall's 12th solo studio album (it depends how you're counting) - adds a music shop's worth of exotic instrumentation and double drummers to this Californian's driving, sprawling oeuvre. Magnificently, songs like Taste or The Fall are only energised by these diverse sonic signatures.
O ver the last 11 years, Californian cult garage rocker Segall has released 13 solo albums, collaborated with Tim Presley on last year's excellent Joy, played in countless short-lived bands and created a labyrinthine back catalogue that stretches from psychedelia to disco. The risk of pumping out ideas with such velocity is that it risks becoming like a musical version of the I'm Alan Partridge episode where the spoof TV host pitches ideas at a long-suffering programmer: "Inner City Sumo? How about Youth-Hostelling With Chris Eubank?" Somehow, Segall has avoided such a fate, and his 13th solo album pushes his sonic envelope ever further without many significant lapses in quality control. It kicks off with the hurtling Taste, a warning about the consequences of personal choices over a grinding, driving riff.
Photo by Denée Segall "Taste" emerges out of whistling emptiness, first one drum kit then another, battering into view, and then the fuzzy, buzzy sound of a monster riff, all standard Ty Segall except for one thing. The riff comes not from a guitar but a Japanese koto. Segall set himself a challenge for First Taste: no guitars. It's an odd choice for a guy who may have started as a drummer, but who has over the years and a firehose spray of albums, made a name for himself as a guitar player.