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Waveshaper TV Ep.20: Intersystems - Era of Lysergic Electronic Music


Waveshaper TV interviewed Intersystems' founding members John Mills-Cockell and Michael Hayden in 2019, as they were working on new material, which is now being released as a vinyl LP / CD via Waveshaper Media. Pre-order: intersystems.bandcamp.com

 

 

Toronto’s infamous psychedelic multimedia collective, Intersystems, makes a surprise return with a new full-length release. Coming out via Waveshaper Media (of I Dream of Wires notoriety) #IV documents Intersystems’ frst new material since 1968!

Even back when they arrived on the scene in the late 1960s, Intersystems stood out as uniquely ambitious and hard-to-defne. Comprised of architect Dik Zander, light sculptor Michael Hayden, poet Blake Parker, and musician John Mills-Cockell (of Syrinx, Kensington Market and more), the group mounted groundbreaking pan-sensory events while releasing a trilogy of defant and disorienting records that have since become coveted collector's items.

Where more conventional purveyors of psychedelia seemed content to use fuzztone guitar and orientalist tropes to approximate altered states, Intersystems built psychedelic experiences of their own from the ground up that embraced all the euphoric wonder and terror. The sonic aspect alone offered a singularly unsettling vision. They initially wrangled homespun gadgetry, feverishly spliced-together tapes, and mutant beat poetry, but soon became among the very frst to deploy a Moog Synthesizer. Their custom modular rig— purchased by Mills-Cockell directly from Robert Moog's Trumansburg Headquarters—was the frst of its kind in Canada.

 

 

The 2015 reissue of Intersystems’ full discography by Alga Marghen prompted acclaim from a number of major outlets. Among them, PopMatters hailed the set as "one of those great lost recordings (three of 'em actually) that comes from the lysergic era." Shortly thereafter Mills-Cockell’s complete work with Syrinx was reissued on RVNG Intl. to similar critical applause. Nearly ffty years after their “fnal” album Free Psychedelic Poster Inside, Hayden and Mills-Cockell decided to revive the long-dormant project with a series of sessions at Hamilton, Ontario's storied Grant Avenue Studio (past clients include everyone from Brian Eno to Johnny Cash). The resultant music remains remarkably congruent with the project's original impulse, yet irrefutably of the present moment. Taking cues from its stark, aforementioned predecessor, a modular Moog synthesizer system is the primary instrument, but here the sonorities that Mills-Cockell conjures are dynamic and diverse, blending barbed wire bass-lines, Subotnickesque chirps, gestural plumes of colour, percussive fligree and more. The 2007 death of poet/lyricist/ vocalist Blake Parker also drastically impacts Intersystems sound, especially since the alternative the group devised is so audacious. Parker's words are rendered electronically and the computer-synthesized voices alternate between an eerily life-like delivery and slurred cybernetic faltering, bringing a glossy dystopian veneer to the group's anxious surrealism.

Intersystems may have cut their teeth in the 60s, but make no mistake: their resurfacing is neither a “comeback" nor a wrong-headed stab at reliving their heady glory days. Rather, #IV is a mature and fully-realized continuation that sees Mills-Cockell and Hayden returning to the project's core ethos with the myriad experience they’ve both accumulated over the fve intervening decades. The aural concoctions it comprises are no less perplexing than their earlier counterparts; bursting with new psychoactive ingredients, while reminding listeners of just how radical Intersystems was in the first place.





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