Halfway through a track on Ty Segall’s new, self-titled album, I begin to make out the structure and flow of this hodgepodge of a song — a musical journey through some of the Sixties’ best psych sounds, along with some modern tweaks and twists. Clearly this could not have been made at an earlier point in recording history, what with the repetition and reverb echoing here and there.
Or maybe it could have. I’m not very knowledgable on music history, as a cursory exploration of the muddle of thoughts in my brain would ultimately not pull up much.
At this point, the guitars are flashing in and out, almost to a stop but not quite. They slow and meander and take their sweet time, filling out the amorphous blob that this song is. The hi-hat and drums kick back in just as soon as they fade out. The interlude comes back into auditory view… a pre-coda coda, in a way. The rhythm guitar gives the impression of sounding like light piano flourishes now and again.
Fade out more and more, only a soft reverberation lingers before the next explosion of distortion pops in.
“I want you to wake up // I want you to see.”
How very appropriate, Ty. Not the first to make a call to action, certainly not the last. Moments where the real world — as much as “real” is an epistemological category when knowledge is obfuscated and misdirected as “alt facts” — puncture my enjoyment of media, especially music, drive home the idea of a connected universe of nearly infinite points. Nothing is outside the scope of anything else, and the ripples are felt everywhere.
This foray is a moment in time; what moment that is becomes hazier and hazier the more one listens, but you can feel the anxiety and tension amidst the bright guitar work. It’s the image of huddling underneath the shade of an oak during a bright spring day, trying your hardest to draw inward, and look away.
I can’t look away, and I don’t want to. I see all things on a continuum, because there is no denying the influence of one event or ridiculous piece-of-shit individual on everything else. As monumentally fucked as we are and have always been (since the moment our ancestors’ non-conscious decision to stand upright? I think so.), this isn’t our first rodeo.
A later track, “Thank You Mr. K,” has a sense of urgency about it — take the keys, take a ride, tip your waiters and servers because they do a hard job and get little back in this capitalist hellscape.
Complaining and bitching are strong tactics, when used properly. I can make out the edges of my role and ability in the resistance to come, and I can’t sit back and rest on my laurels of “Oh, I’ve read Marx and can fathom the forces that allow labour and accumulated wealth to flow upstream.” Knowledge is a weapon, information and language are left and right fists that punch a neo-Nazi, bodies are the warzone.
There isn’t time to wait; get going and fuck shit up. Mentally, Emotionally, Physically, Economically, Existentially. We can make their life hell. We have to.
I create this Audio Cocoon series for myself, for you, for a moment’s rest from the wild world outside. Shroud yourself in linens and musical fabrics whenever you want; emerge ready to fight back.
Post-postmodernity…what a concept!
Is this some threshold of American culture that we are speeding towards, with no sign of stopping? At what point does the deconstruction and absurdization of talk shows, clickbait, sitcoms, and other post-9/11 signs of life reach a brick wall, breaking into a million pieces and necessitating some rebirth?
I don’t mean to imply I want this trend to end any time soon. This storm had been on the horizon long before the year 2000, and its genesis is in shows like Seinfeld, where the conventional notion of “family” and the structure of a TV comedy are picked apart and hung out to dry. Television in general is now a gross, absurd parody of the real world, where the truth is stranger than fiction and dystopia is not so far removed from reality.
The human experience is flipped on its head and explored from a different, very dark direction. Storylines no longer involve heartfelt, tired characters and situations where everyone learns a lesson at the end of the day. The lessons are not warm and fuzzy — in “Rick and Morty”, there is never a happy ending, and if there is it’s certainly not seen that way by the characters. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is tricky when the tunnel is littered with the corpses of those you had so gleefully murdered not moments before.
How do you react to Eric Andre, host and insanity ringleader of “The Eric Andre Show”, when he takes a baseball bat to a porcelain bust of his counterpart Hannibal Buress, smashing it to pieces as he howls with maniacal laughter?
You don’t. The reins are forcefully taken from your hands and Eric Andre rides backwards into Hell, while Hannibal sits in the passenger’s seat and shakes his head mournfully as reason and order give way to undying chaos.
Forrest MacNeil, the straight-faced host of the life-review show “Review”, eagerly becomes a racist and destroys his happy marriage (among other things) for the endless pursuit of knowledge. His thankless journey is a Bizarro take on Faust’s deal with the devil for the forbidden fruit of knowledge, though in MacNeil’s case the devil is society. How apt.
Any conventional notion of normalcy is tossed out the window and set on fire. The line between the actor and their character is gone, and Life itself is the main player on the stage that is the universe, standing alongside the ant-like humans that litter the Earth.
dirge for a metallic earth (preface)
the land is gone // only steel remains (part 1)
there are moments from ages 14 to 17 that/
Have faded from a blur…
…to brief flashes.
I’m on my bike/
zooming down Adeline/
And as a *flash*
I’ll be whisked back/
To shouting and threats and “you’re no child of mine”/
But then “why don’t you call more”/
and “im so alone, youssef”.
I hear Never Ending “you son of a bitch” and smashing clocks on his head/
I can never forget the pained shrieks/
and the “this is your fault”/
But then “please come home. i miss you.”/
What remains of our bountiful forbear? // they were torn to shreds // the land was burnt (part 2)
At 23 I still hear ringing in my ears from when I couldn’t sleep because of frantic shouting/
But I still get phone calls while at work asking “do you not care about your family”/
I drown it all in Deafheaven and Merzbow and endless white noise/
It is never enough.
I wander this land/
Only hearing ghosts/
I shout back “why can’t you leave me alone”/
And I fall, tears flowing forth. What else is there.
The ghosts say “we’re your family”
What remains? // Ash. and tears. and screams when nothing else exists. and a voice that will never leave. (part 3)
ps. fathers are trash
Have you ever listened to Weirdo Rippers, by No Age?
If not, you should. Here, I’ve even included a link to the most accessible track on the album — I say “most accessible track” and not “the best song,” because there is no best song, and these are the pretty loose interpretations of the concept of “song.”
They’re more like auditory adventures. They meander and weave and burst into eclectic walls of sound and noise, a collection of the band’s early recordings packaged into 32 minutes of punk, noise, art, ambient, rock, drone and pure energy. What a menagerie!
There is no defining sound here, beyond Randy Randall’s static-laden guitar and the masterful drumming of Dean Allen Spunt. Together they craft soundscapes full of reverb and intensity that are appropriate for lazy Mondays with nothing to do, or packed all-ages venues — much like The Smell, where they cut their teeth and adorned their name and album cover for this debut release way back in 2007.
Yes, I am writing about an album that is eight years old, an album that is as old as I was when my last brother was born, a pleasant time when I had little to no conception of what rock music was. It looms high over the landscape of my mind, weaving a thread of discordant and dissonant noise in to a coherent whole, a blanket with misshapen knots and smooth textures.
This album does something to my mind. I hear the feedback in the amplifiers and get a vague idea of the process, but I can’t replicate it — I don’t want to. For me, seeing a thin film of static, punctuated ever so slightly by somber piano notes, rippling outward before joining with the next, is sufficient.
I want to explore this place, where tracks like “Dead Plane” guide me along a bright, sunny road out in the country before moving along to another scene in an ever shifting series of images that instill a calmness in me, before pummeling me with sudden bursts of unrelenting energy.
Listening to the LP, you can hear the seeds that were sown for their follow-up, Nouns, especially in songs (we’re in song country!) like “Eraser,” which maintains the lo-fi ethos of Weirdo Rippers, but introduces a wider array of pretty, fluttering guitars. I love both of these albums, don’t get me wrong — one was the starter, the other the polished end product.
With Weirdo Rippers, you never know what is coming next, and that is the fun of it.
I’m a sucker for experimentation and oddities in popular culture, especially in music. Weirdo Rippers is a punk rock experiment of the highest caliber. There are no edges to hit — just new places to explore.
Sometimes I have a trillion thoughts in my head, each buzzing and bouncing around my cranium in the way that a beehive hanging from a particularly weak tree brach will explode into a fury when some idiot kid decides to mess with the harmony of nature and chuck a rock the size of his fist at it (it’s always a ten-year old boy…).
Sometimes pockets of those thoughts congeal into a massive hulk of a thought that overtakes other thoughts, choking them out and making their buzzing all the more prevalent in my head. Sometimes the thoughts band together into an intricate web, threads of consciousness forming to and fro like a hairnet holding me hostage in my own body. The buzzing still becomes more prevalent, and all I can hear is a dim zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz that grows louder and louder with each passing second, drowning out all other sounds and thoughts around me. What nerve!
When this happens, all I can do is wait for it to pass, biding my time by staring blankly at the passing darkness of the train tunnel as we barrel onward into San Francisco. Or I’ll close my eyes and locate this monstrous beast of cognition, and employ whatever brainpower not diverted into this thing into stamping it out. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to the duration of my train ride (around half an hour), depending on how much coffee I’ve had up until that point.
It always passes, but I feel significantly drained afterward, like I’ve used up all of my mana in taking out the dragon hiding in the innermost chamber of a sprawling dungeon, and now I have to spend the next hour breaking pots that strangers had probably needed for transporting things.
I feel empty afterward, so I listen to death metal, or noise punk, or the soothing eddies of sound that ambient electronic music sends into my brain—I’m looking at you, Boards of Canada. Yes, death metal does not seem like the kind of music to put on immediately after “doing battle” with your own mind—it’d probably be more fitting for psyching yourself into running or exercising—but you would be surprised at what 200+ beats per minute of thrashing guitars and a double-pedal drum kit can do to hush a frantic inner state.
If Meshuggah or Gorgoroth are too Satanic or Scandinavian for your tastes, why not the atmospheric screeching of Deafheaven, or the brooding transcendentalism of Liturgy? Hipsters go crazy over that kind of metal, I hear.
Regardless, I never feel fully replenished from this, as all blasting metal through my earbuds into my head does is mask whatever my own brain chemistry gets up to in its spare time. All the structured noise in the world could never compete with how fucking loud my brain gets, and it is always loud. The most I can do is escape, even for a little bit, from the incessant buzzing of a computer that never shuts down.