Ty Segall‘s brand new double-LP, Manipulator [Drag City Records] marks a continuation in the Bay Area‘s preeminent neo-garage-psych twenty-something big shot releasing one new full-length studio “solo” album a year, beginning with his self-titled cassette/LP-only debut on Burger Records in 2008. That’s right folks, this kid was born in 1987 and already has 7 albums under his belt — hope that makes you feel good about yourself and your own accomplishments, or lack thereof — I, myself, am simply hoping to take a shower later today, if I get around to it; maybe even make it to Costco.
Those less familiar with Ty‘s career will likely find such prolificity impressive, but the rest of you will probably be as surprised as I was in hearing that statistic: “Only 7 albums?! There’s no way!!! I thought this joker was pushing out some brand new record every other week. It sure as fuck seems that way.” While it’s true that, much like his fellow cohorts/collaborators at the forefront of the San Francisco garage scene, like Thee Oh Sees and White Fence, Segall has generated an ungodly amount of original music in a relatively short period of time, the 7 albums in question are only those which are technically considered to be “Ty Segall” solo studio albums. There, of course, is no mention of the 2012 “Ty Segall Band” release, Slaughterhouse [In The Red Records] (which features the exact same lineup of Mikal Cronin, Charles Moothart, and Emily Rose Epstein as “the Manipulator band”); his collaborations with friends like White Fence, Cronin, and in the band Fuzz (with Moothart, featuring Ty on drums/vocals); his brief tenure in the influential SF outfit, Sic Alps; his dozens of other singles, EPs, random compilation appearances, and demo releases; or even his output with the acts that he was part of before becoming more of a household name (Epsilons, Party Fowl, The Traditional Fools). Even better — or worse, depending on your perspective — Segall‘s catalog isn’t just impressive because of it’s sheer volume, but also because of his consistency; his records all tend to receive broad critical praise and land themselves on multiple “best of” year-end album lists — only 2 weeks since hitting the shelves and Manipulator is already a front runner to wind up there again. And while this is all very well and fine, impressive and whatnot, it’s the new video for the title track off this new album that I find the most interest in — it operates like a digital colorform with images of alien heads, weed, hazmat suits, birds of prey, and slabs of raw meat.
What an aging hater like myself can easily find the most obnoxious about a young upstart like Ty is not only his ability to be so prolific or even the enviable freedom and time that he has at his disposal to create such output, but also the energy that he exhibits which allows him to be that way. His shows are engaging, high energy displays that demonstrate how connected he is to what he’s doing and imply that he’s enjoying every minute of it (his youth isn’t even being wasted on him). Even more, while most detractors may simply write him off as some young “garage rock” throwback, those who bother to pay attention should actually be able to, at the very minimum, acknowledge the constant change that’s so apparent from each one of his projects to the next; this is much less a constant “reinvention” of himself as it is an accelerated, almost progeriatric evolution. Whatever is propelling this guy to create is also propelling him forward. If you think that you’re tired of him, it appears that he tires of himself and whatever he’s doing even quicker and more often; the byproduct to that being a need for constant innovation and a brand new interactive video that embodies that reality as much as anything else.
Sure, we’ve seen “interactive” videos before, but none of the ones that I’ve encountered are quite like this new one for “Manipulator,” or quite as enjoyable to interact with. Radiohead‘s 2008 video for “House of Cards” showed us that the interactive music video as a medium was possible and utilized projection mapping technology to create something that was occasionally hypnotic, even beautiful, but also still fairly disconnected from the music itself; for the most part, the user/viewer was primarily just rotating a simulation of Thom Yorke‘s head that looked as if it had been pushed into a pinpoint impression toy, to view it from different perspectives. Earlier this year, They Might Be Giants took a different approach with their nearly 24-minute video for “Tesla,” but the only “interactive” element with that was really just the ability to jump to predetermined spots on a youtube video to create your own choppy “remix” of sorts — the same effect could be done with any video, perhaps even more effectively, by randomly clicking on different parts on the timeline. For “Manipulator,” Ty worked with past collaborator Matt Yoka, who he initially met while the two attended the University of San Francisco. According to a post from The New York Times’ T Magazine, Yoka purchased and cut up numerous art books to create the aesthetic for the new video with the help of coder/designer Simon Wiscombe, allowing the viewer the freedom to “manipulate” the background elements that surround the musician/songwriter as he moves forward, performing the track as it progresses. That’s one standout element of the video and the one thing that really makes it feel “interactive,” it continues through the track like a regular video, even presenting different frames, perspectives and images, but still allows you to effect the visuals — it doesn’t just pause the entire operation, freezing it on one solitary, yet expansive screen, or skip randomly through the audio like the aforementioned predecessors. As the creators have stated, with all of the options available for the viewers who decide to play around with this technology, “it offers an almost infinite number of visual outcomes.”
As close to an “official” music video as we have available to us — at least in the more classic/orthodox sense — the following video is, in reality, just one example of the endless potential outcomes in the form of a “playthrough” by the director.
In many ways, this isn’t incredibly “groundbreaking,” as the visuals do seem to follow a basic formula utilized in online game technology for decades, but a great majority of our innovations don’t come from completely new technology, but rather from simply fusing already existing elements together — peanut butter and chocolate come to mind — and planting that seed into the minds of those who will take it a step further. From a marketing perspective the implications may be even bigger. What better way to get a song stuck in someone’s head (or a product for that matter) than to find a way to convince them to repeatedly engage with the medium presenting it?
Now CLICK HERE to go fuck around with this tripped-out newfangled rock music video, but try to hold on to your soul and your established reality while doing so. Remember, the visual combinations are virtually infinite. Visuals, man.