AMN Reviews: Intersystems – #IV [Waveshaper Media WSM-04]; Dave Seidel – Involution [XI Records XI 143CD]

A long interval separates the release of the new, fourth album by the Toronto multimedia collective Intersystems and the group’s third album: more than fifty years. That third album, Free Psychedelic Poster Inside, appeared in 1968 and represented the culmination of the collective’s unique variety of aural psychedelia which, in contrast to the more commercial types of musical psychedelia then current, was the product of a particular avant-garde sensibility expressed through homemade instruments, tapes, and a notably early adoption of the Moog synthesizer. A Moog modular is at the heart of the new album, a two CD set of one full-length recording and one EP, which was recorded in 2015 by the two surviving members of the collective, sound artist John Mills-Cockell and light sculptor/visual artist Michael Hayden. The words for #IV were written by Intersystems’ poet-lyricist Blake Parker, who died in 2007. (The fourth member of the collective was architect Dik Zander.)

Parker’s words are a salient part of the new recording, not least because they are “spoken” by computer-generated voice. At times the synthetic voice sounds almost perfectly natural, but at other times, through various means of electronic distortion, it mutates into an uncanny artificiality. Rather than distracting from the content of Parker’s writing this alienation of the voice from the human presence of a speaker only serves to underscore the sometimes unsettling surreality of the poetry. Mills-Cockell’s work with the Moog modular evokes the sounds of the classic electronic experiments of an earlier period, but does so in a way that’s fresh and entirely contemporary.

Dave Seidel’s Involution is another double CD release of electronic music, but of a kind very different from Intersystems’. Seidel’s album contains two very long, multi-movement works, the new three-part Involution and a remastered version of the six-part Hexany Permutations, which was previously released in 2016. Both pieces are slowly evolving drones diverging and converging within a microtonal soundspace defined by conventional and unconventional scales of varying sets of intervals.

Daniel Barbiero