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Ty Segall and White Fence - Hair

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Artist: Ty Segall and White Fence

Album: Hair

Label: Drag City

Review date: Apr. 23, 2012

Ty Segall and Tim Presley’s White Fence work slightly different parts of the 1960s psych-pop spectrum. Segall is, in general, louder, more distorted, more rhythmic, allowing punk urgency to occasionally push through lackadaisical tambourine-laced jams, injecting rockabilly jitters into slacker guitar-strummed grooves. Presley hews a little more closely to Eastern-tinged psych traditions, invoking George Harrison in the way his bending, half-stepping guitar riffs turn sitar-ish and surrounding liminal melodies with clouds of haze and drone.

Still, Segall and Presley have a lot in common, not just membership in a certain lo-fi, California-centered garage pop club, but in the way they get at the music. Both work quickly and without much second guessing, cloaking bright, loosely structured nuggets of psychedelia in the fuzz and rush of garage rock. Both communicate with immediacy, rather than polish, leaving loose ends hanging and rough undersides showing. And both have a knack of hiding sticky hooks in the mush and drone, so that you come away from their albums with actual songs in your head, not a vague sensation of having heard music.

Segall and Presley, in sum, seem like musicians who are more alike than different. It’s surprising, then, that Hair, their first collaboration recorded in a series of sessions last fall in San Francisco, mostly plays up their differences.

To begin with, most of the songs feel like they belong to one artist or the other. “Easy Ryder” is pure Segall, for instance, while “(I Can’t) Get Around You” sounds close to 100 percent White Fence. A couple songs stitch the bits together, appending a Ty-like hard instrumental coda to “Time,” for instance, or joining together a Presley-ish slacker raga to a hard, fast Segall-ish vamp in “A Black Glove/Rag.”

The parts don’t always fit together very well, either. “I Am Not a Game,” starts with a cheerful, uptempo organ riff, then shifts abruptly into fuzz-edged, hard-riffed guitars, without any real connection between the two bits. You get the sense of two guys jamming, coming up with ideas and throwing them together, not of any well considered melding of musical visions. Most of the songs have at least one section in them that seems incongruous, and none of them are what you’d call tightly structured.

In a couple of instances, Segall and Presley manage to combine their talents in ways that augment both. “Easy Ryder” opens up in a horizon-spanning way with the Presley guitar solo, transforming itself from a small-scale, bedroom psych ditty into something larger. Conversely, “(I Can’t) Get Around You” becomes a great deal more engaging when a rhythm starts to push its swirl and drone forward. There’s an urgency toward the end that really enhances Presley’s melody.

Hair works because even when the pieces aren’t well integrated, they are often enjoyable listening. It also reminds you how much diversity there can be, even among artists who seem to be naturally aligned and compatible. Who would have thought there was enough difference between Ty Segall and White Fence to make a collaboration jarring? The fact that they clash at all just makes you aware of how distinct and individual the two are.

By Jennifer Kelly

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