In recent years, our culture has gradually refocused its collective daily ritual to center around the maintenance of an unending, all-encompassing log — like survivors, stranded on some far-off planet, chronicling an environment that with each passing day is becoming more foreign and uncontrollable to us. We catalog our achievements, our passing thoughts, our moments of need, not just for the sake of capturing another’s gaze, but to meet our own as well. Who hasn’t succumbed to the infinite scroll of a tour through one’s own profile, the pictures reaching farther back into memory, the posts becoming a morphing embodiment of a different and more unknowable you? This log persists ever onward, ourselves tantamount in its continued construction, and as we add to it, its simulacrum grows into a photograph of us outside of ourselves, our virtues and flaws inherent within it. Yet the being does not move; it hangs in the air, beyond our world of shapes and feelings while desperately attempting to represent them as they might fully be. By documenting ourselves, we create the self-image as an “impossible object,” in M. Geddes Gengras’s words.
A lurking figure in the West Coast underground, Gengras has been logging release after release of submerged, cranial synth music, when he’s not busy ripping dancehall beats with Duppy Gun or providing mastering services at his Green Machines lair. He’s a musician’s musician, versed in the kind of technical know-how that allows his work to take on amorphous, complex forms, and his live performances are an exercise in witnessing how many different ways the modular synthesizer can be programmed and stretched to reflect a breathing, human mind. Gengras has become a modern champion for the modular synthesizer, an instrument whose vast wiring and ground-up composition style can be intimidating in all of its old-school systematics, and in keeping with this engineer mentality, Gengras’s music up to this point has never borne a concrete mission statement as much as a restless desire to create. As evidenced by his undying love for The Grateful Dead, improvisation is at the heart of his art, and like the ocean of live recordings the Dead have laid in their wake, Gengras’s releases often don’t constitute specific articles of meaning; they embody the therapeutic act of documentation, providing us with an impression of the man’s headspace mapped out between multicolored patch cords and constantly shifting sine waves.
Likewise, Interior Architecture, Gengras’s newest transmission, doesn’t concern itself with anything resembling an allegory. Compiled from six years of Gengras’s musical recordings taken from across the world (some from his California home base, some apparently traced as far away as The Netherlands), the album plays like a diary manifest into a cluster of tones, articulating itself not in complete sentences, but in the subtle curvature of each letter, an entry that conveys volumes without even actually speaking. Despite his 2014 breakout album Ishi’s asserted thesis (revolving around its titular Yahi outsider), Interior Architecture is presented as a clear tome of mind, four slabs of endless, drifting synthesis, abstract in concept yet rich with neural networking. Spread across two LPs, each consisting of side-long descents into psychedelia, Interior Architecture slides comfortably into a legacy of expansive, otherworldly electronic music, right alongside Wendy Carlos’s unsettling and sublime Sonic Seasonings or the unholy worship of Tangerine Dream’s Zeit. But where those albums felt like monoliths, Interior Architecture subverts itself into something more personal and slippery.
As its diffuse assemblage might imply, Interior Architecture weaves in and out of its declared suites with little in the way of reason connecting one bizarre train of thought to another; in some ways, it strangely aligns itself with the mix format of platforms like SoundCloud, drifting seamlessly from one mind frame to the next in a unified but scattered hypnogogia. Its tunneling, 18-minute crests allow themselves to the classicist shapes of vinyl, but in execution Gengras veers closer to a kind of timeless, ageless expression, rooted at once in curation, artisanship, invocation, prayer, and humanization. Interior Architecture reveals to us the chaotic manifestation of Gengras’s own internal logic, and like any of us, it is a colossal, intricate enigma, iridescent and perverted in a concentrated kind of freedom.
Even categorizing the sounds that emit from Gengras’s Interior Architecture as “electronic music” or “synthesizer music” does a disservice to their elusiveness. After opening the proceedings with a dewy, disorienting slice of evil church drone, Gengras ricochets to a Spencer Clarkian cascade of dripping, squelching cave percussion, from there morphing seamlessly into a jittery freefloat of blipped-out electronic signals, until a predominant theme emerges not unlike an eerie windup ballerina toy, spinning toward its uncertain infinite. There are moments of haunted piano mystery punctuating track two and some dazed clarinet littered across track three (courtesy of Seth Kasselman), but that’s as concrete as the instrumentation ever gets here, opting more often for a betweenness of texture at once spilling over with small details and gelling together in symbiosis. As beyond grasp as this music is, however, Interior Architecture welcomes the deep sink, not repelling us away with its unsettling synth-wizardry, but pulling aside the curtain for us so that all the knobs and smoke machines might be understood as the human-made vehicles that they are. Instead of attempting to summon the cosmos, Gengras plumbs the universe of his own mind, and for all of its nonsensical loose ends and neverending stairways to nothingness, its beauty is arresting on an elegantly peculiar level.
By collecting these streams of thought from over the years and unifying them into a functioning body, Gengras has built a synaptic palace of luscious, pulsating life force, a product of his own creation that nonetheless exists on an entirely different plane than the one he inhabits. It’s lack of commitment to any one theme only further serves to highlight the rules and rationale underpinning Gengras’s raw actions, the results of pure musicianship at its absolute finest, never descending into mere gear masturbation but instead truly illustrating a profound relationship between the creator and their tools. Although its scope is imposing, Interior Architecture exists between the inside and the out, channeling untold depths into a series of nighttime mirages that never frighten as much as they soothe into an easy flow, beckoning us to venture deeper into the murky, uncanny waters. With Interior Architecture, M. Geddes Gengras has produced more than the sum of six years of logging recordings; he’s assembled an image of himself, both humble and eternal, an edifice that stretches at the boundaries of the conscious, the subconscious, and the unconscious, a tribute to immortal and unending sound, a monument in flux.