From Australian sound artist Erkki Veltheim we have Ganzfeld Experiment (ROOM 40 RM4106), which quite coincidentally is the second Ganzfeld-themed record to have crossed our desk in 2019; the other one was by Von Tesla on the Italian Boring Machines label. Evidently Erkki Veltheim (born in Finland, but resident in Australia just now) has studied the same history of these Ganzfeld experiments and, like Von Tesla, alludes to the possibility of telepathic communication which these experiments were intended to enable.
Veltheim has made the better record, though. He does it using an electric violin and a certain amount of “video and signal processing”; the work is actually more of a multi-media thing, and on this LP we only get the audio aspect. What I like is the way the sound of the violin – if indeed that’s what it is – is transformed and distorted to quite a high degree, and the resulting pulsating signals are intense and mesmerising. If we’re not actually receiving telepathic messages, at least this is the kind of audio environment that might just allow such communication to take place. Along with the Ganzfeld thing (an experiment about which I remain deeply sceptical), Erkki Veltheim also refers directly to forms of trance music as created by Tony Conrad and Terry Riley, both respected US minimalists, and he’s aiming for the same sort of near-religious experience as they created. Conrad also experimented with the hypnotic effects of flickering light, and his underground movie The Flicker is a major benchmark in this area, a hyper-kinetic experience from which the eye and brain never fully recover.
Veltheim doesn’t quite reach those same heights of intensity as Conrad did (for some, it was more of an all-out assault on the senses than a religious ecstasy), but in terms of performance and realisation, this is a very convincing piece of work, and one that goes beyond its own process. Veltheim has been active for a few years now, but this seems to be his debut appearance on record. Released in August 2019.