Michael Garfield – How To Live in the Future: The Transhuman Music of Akhentek

31 March 2008

The Transhuman Music of Akhentek


A moment of speculation, rooted in a study of universal trends: Human history can be defined as development along any of numerous axes, but my preferred story-for-our-species is of an advance in mind control technologies. For good and ill, the development of our consciousness flies tandem with our expanding capacity to access and explore various states of mind at will. Our command of navigating mind with sensory and electrochemical stimulation has matured to include everything from early entheogenic experiments with drumming and chanting, to contemporary techniques of magnetic temporal lobe stimulation and virtual reality immersion…and with the impending advent of biotech and nanotech that will profoundly deepen the intimacy between brain and machine (and erase such primitive distinctions), we can be sure that mind control is one of the best markers we have for measuring our humanity (and our trans-humanity).

With this in mind, I spend much of my time looking at contemporary art and music as touchstones, clues to our place as a self-transcending species in the cosmos. Every time I see intention meet technology in a deliberate manipulation of mindstates, I rejoice that we are on the right track. And nowhere is this confluence more apparent than in the careful structuring of electronic musicians like Akhentek, a self-described “crystalline array technician” from Elphinstone, BC, whose psy-trance productions are “precision engineered sonic textures intentionally designed to induce higher frequency mindstates.”

Akhentek’s nuanced tracks, like the burbling glitch of “Spectrality” or the free-floating guitar and synthesizers on his “White Girls In Saris” remix, definitely induce a strange, buzzing feeling – and unlike many other buzz-inducing artists, I know that he’s doing it on purpose.

Deep beneath the art of this music coils the esoteric science of neuroentrainment: getting the brain to vibrate at specific frequencies. It's an easy enough trick. Our brains expect to hear more or less the same thing in each ear, so they split the difference between tones that don't quite line up, creating the auditory illusion of a single note. This activity requires special collaboration between the right and left hemispheres, which syncs brain activity at that agreed-upon mean. If the left ear hears 104 Hz and the right ear hears 108 Hz, the entire brain will pulse at 4 Hz - with the brainwaves producing a corresponding state of mind. It's one of the cheapest ways to engineer consciousness. No drugs, no surgery, no nanobots - all you need is a pair of headphones and a "crystalline array technician" to prepare the sounds for you.

These binaural beats coast inaudibly across each other underneath warm and deep mastering, giving this music the strange quality of feeling at once transparent and mysterious. It’s little wonder that he has a background in biology and “Brazilian Genetics” (which I assume is a euphemism for ayahuasca initiation) – this guy’s eye and ear are definitely trained on human evolution and accelerating its numerous permutations. Cascades of twittering clicks and swells of buzzing oscillations sweep through me as I listen, reformatting my consciousness on a subliminal level. I start feeling the effects of his “rare sensitivity to frequencies” as the café around me starts to ripple with gauzy transparency.

We may be a long way from having total agency over individual awareness. In the meantime, however, I’m relieved to know that we have innovators like Akhentek out there fighting the good fight, sculpting sound with to elevate consciousness directly and for the greater good, those secret agent techno-shamans enlightening unwitting ravers and inspiring the next generation of state-engineers to plunge even deeper into our limitless potential to explore – and create – novel states of mind.

Akhentek’s music, as well as information about Entheogenetic (his electronic music label) and the Entheos Gathering (his festival) can be found online at CBC Radio 3.

(Written for iggli.com)