TY SEGALL – ” Hello Hi “

Posted: January 8, 2023 in MUSIC
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Ty Segall’s new album “Hello, Hi” sounds just like Southern California. A heady mix of sun-drenched folk and exuberant psych-rock, it materialized at his home-based Harmonizer Studio—a brimming lab where vintage and custom outboard gear, 2″ tape, a classic top-end microphone, and plenty of coffee helped fuel his giddy return to the acoustic guitar.

On a much-needed break from the first leg of his current tour with his road-tested Freedom Band, Ty Segall takes a seat in his mood-lit studio control room, mug of hot java in hand, and looks around with a visible expression of what can only be described as wonder. “You know, to have my own place to work on stuff is just pure joy,” he says. “I’m often like, ‘How did this even happen?’ It’s a great place to hone my skills and to get weird ideas going, with no pressure. The clock’s not running. We’re not burning a budget here. You get to do whatever you want. It’s just totally insane.”

Segall has made a career out of being prolific, so it was probably inevitable that he’d pool his resources into designing the three-room complex he calls Harmonizer, named for the album it spawned after he put the finishing touches on the studio build-out, completed in early 2021 at his home in the Santa Monica Mountains just outside Los Angeles. Compact but state-of-the-art, Harmonizer not only stands as testament to the long hours Segall has logged on his way to becoming an A-list producer, but it also plays a key role as an instrument in Segall’s arsenal that’s just as crucial to his sound as his trusty Travis Bean TB1000S or, more recently, his vintage Martin D-35 acoustic.

All three figured prominently, in fact, into the making of Hello, Hi”Segall’s latest studio realization of what he calls a “back to basics” album. “It was about coming back to the acoustic guitar, to be honest,” he clarifies. “I think a lot of the records I make have to do with my relationship to songwriting at that time. And I hadn’t really played the acoustic or written on it since probably “Freedom’s Goblin”, which at this point is maybe five years ago. So, to me it was really like falling back in love with the acoustic guitar. It was a very nice experience to have.”

If there’s a modern California sound—a throwback to the late-’60s Laurel Canyon “freak folk” vibes of the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and many more, but infused with a wild and rambunctious onslaught of psychedelic garage rock—then Segall’s music radiates it, and “Hello, Hi” might be the closest he comes to creating a West Coast “concept album” without openly admitting it.

From the lovely waking dissonance and pastoral colors of songs like “Good Morning,” “Blue,” and “Looking at You” to the thick, hard-knocking grooves of the title track and the sublime coda, “Distraction,” Segall touches on themes of reflection and connection that feel immediate, palpable, and deeply moving. It can be a bit of a nostalgia trip, but he pulls off the balancing act with well-wrought songs that convey a sense of longing without a trace of schmaltzy artifice.

At the heart of that authenticity is the Martin, which inspired Segall not only to write with renewed vigour, but also spurred him to get his hands on a microphone that could do it justice. “For all the records that I’ve done, I try to get one piece of gear, and that’s the expense of the record,” he explains. “This one was pretty crazy. I got a [Neumann] U67. That’s basically the guitar sound on the whole record.”

Among studio heads, the U67 is a legendary, and legendarily expensive, microphone that has been central to the sound of classic albums from the ’60s and ’70s, perhaps most notably Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. The mic can harness a huge arc of low end without distorting, but it can also preserve an elusive and intimate “proximity effect” on vocals and acoustic instruments that has made it one of the most desirable, and essential, pieces of gear in any major studio.

Segall tried a few different approaches to capture the richness and resonance of the Martin, but in the end he found that simplicity was the best rule of thumb to fall back on. “I would try to put some room mics on it and stuff,” he says, “but the U67 just changed the feeling of everything. I always ended up going back to pointing it at the 12th fret, usually somewhere between six-to-eight inches away. Sometimes if I wanted a bit more of a room sound, I would set it to omni, but it was mostly on cardioid. I just kept it simple. That mic is so good, you can put it anywhere and it’ll sound amazing.”

The album’s closing suite of songs, beginning with the whimsically titled “Saturday (Part 1),” probably best signifies how Segall was able to use the U67 to his advantage. The opening acoustic filigree and Segall’s hypnotic vocal combine to recall vestiges of White Album-era Beatles, but with a startling presence and stereo imaging that creates a real under-the-skin sensation.

“Saturday (Part 2)” brings in the Freedom Band’s Charles Moothart on drums and Mikal Cronin on saxophone, with Segall on bass and electric guitar, gradually stoking a psychedelic heat that would take the Doors to task. When Cronin crashes into the mix with a horn solo that consists of two stacked takes, the in-your-face blast suddenly elevates the song to a completely different level.

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