Let's go deep
The talented and forever glamorous Cassie (here pictured performing alongside Akufen, Ricardo Villalobos, and Luciano at MUTEK Chile) spent a good 10 minutes that morning raving about some forthcoming material from Baby Ford and Thomas Melchior that's supposedly going to flip our collective noggin six ways from Sunday. As chance would have it, lately I've logged more than a few hours revisiting Melchior's early project Yoni on Source Germany. Yoni, the duo of Melchior and Tim Hutton, is better known as Vulva, but for my money nothing Vulva did ever managed to top Yoni's lone album and single (no disrespect to Rephlex, who put out most of Vulva's work). My Little Yoni -- with a title as vaginally obsessed as their pussyfooting four-to-the-floor always was -- was one of the first "techno" albums to grab me. In fact, it may have been the very first; when I bought it in 1994, the only electronic music I listened to at the time was Aphex Twin, Autechre, and the like. Stuck in my punk-rock prejudices, I hated anything with a discernible dancefloor beat. And then I heard Yoni.
To this day I can't figure out why Yoni hit me while so much other techno still didn't. At the time, I had a bizarre aversion to handclaps in drum machine patterns. It was a twofold complaint: I didn't like their simulacral sound, but beyond that, I hated the very way they signified. Handclaps, to my mind, represented the root of the participatory experience, and their mimicry seemed not just hollow but patently false. Yoni's tunes are pocked with handclaps, but their usage -- strung into rapid-fire, staccato sequences, swathed in delay -- is so very over the top that all my puritan objections fell away and left me gaping in awe at the very post-humanism of it.
From the very first bars, My Little Yoni dares you not to engage with it; the opening kick drums and bass line of "Creepy Bitch" poke you in the sternum as though commanding your pulse to step in line. Meanwhile, a hissing acid arpeggio peels off frequencies that could send dogs into convulsions. It's as though the duo were planting flags at each end of the audible spectrum and saying, "This is ours and we are your conquerors." Owned by tone, you comply.
They're not just lords of frequency, though. Every aspect of My Little Yoni rings out with a triumphant cry, from the hypercharged syncopations and manic dub bass of "Black Forest" to the bafflingly broad timbral array of "Spirit of Adventure," which pulls together dry, scabby drum patterns, liquid squelches, breezy pads, and spine-tingling, metallic effects. Every bar is a lesson in sensory overload.
Later, much later, I'd learn concepts and find words -- acid, Detroit, techno -- to lend meaning and context where at first I heard only dub bass and an unnameable explosion of organized sound. But all the knowledge hasn't diminished the radical strangeness of the record for me. Every time I put it on, it sounds like a universe cracking open and every last shred of meaning bleeding off, drop after mercurial drop.