"Electronic music has no soul"

It's the kind of statement that permeates amongst the ignorant, most likely to be spouted from die-hard Nickelback fans who've spent one too many hours indulging in their odious back catalogue. There has always been a prejudice against artists that predominantly draw on sounds that are conceived 'synthetically'. This is not a commercial or a popularity prejudice, it's continued growth only seems to get faster and stronger, but recognition of its emotional depth is noticeably less forthcoming. If there was ever a challenger to debunk this notion once and for all then Harlem-based producer and beat-maker Vhvl might be the prime candidate.

Vhvl has no qualms in explaining that the cathartic nature of making music, and the toll it can take on a person, are essential to what she creates. "My process can be extremely destructive. I was told early on by a peer that I'd probably end up dying from torturing myself in order to call upon abysmal memories in order to create music. Ironically, I'd have to say my favourite thing (about making music) is my process, being able to feel a certain level of emotion reminds me that I am alive. I like knowing I'm alive."

The tortured artist is no new concept yet the emotions that go into Vhvl's music are fearfully palpable. A good example of this would be 'Qrs'. It's heavier than most of her other material which has been sporadically uploaded to her soundcloud over the past year (and subsequently deleted – much to my dismay). Typically, or so it appears to be for Vhvl, it comes from a dark place. "I was betrayed - 'Qrs' was born. It is just a beam leading out of my core into the world. It allowed the feelings I had to mute and harbour during a heartbreaking part of my life, a chance to transform from darkness to light." It is perhaps a credit to her musical background, learning the piano as a child and then trying her hand at anything she could get hold of, that has taught her how to construct such bold and often aggressive soundscapes. The wonky, unpredictable phrasing of the beats appear to jar and jolt with the bass and synths. On the surface it feels out of sync but it marches on regardless. Rhythmic tension, eerie sound design and a malevolent attitude are all hallmarks of a Vhvl track.

But what is with the ambivalent attitude toward vowels? She explains that the lack of vowel came before the music. "It was initially started as a joke between friends. We would only use consonants to express our level of anger and frustration through text messages. It was a way for us to be brief and allow room for interpretation." When she split from one of her earlier bands, she decided to branch out on her own. She explains that just as the lack of vowels gave her medium to express herself, albeit with her tongue firmly-in-cheek, music gave her the opportunity to do the same thing. The association she made between the two is why the tracks titles lack vowels. Some are more easy to guess than others; 'Rghdrft' - Rough draft, 'Mmnts' - Moments, whilst others such as 'Qrs' and 'Blk' are more ambiguous (bulk, black?). Even her name is up for debate. "I love hearing what people concoct; I've been called "vivel", "v-ay-val", however you interpret it, is fine with me."

Something which Vhvl is not so hot on is a developing obsession with her gender. I ask her about a previous interview she did in which the writer decided to dedicate its entire opening paragraphs(!) with a fairly trite joke about the rarity of women in electronic music. Does this kind of attention bother her? She deftly rebuffs my question: "It can be frustrating at times. What helps is remembering that some of the most influential individuals of electronic music were women - Bebe Barron, Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram." Indeed she is right. All three women were pioneers in developing the mechanisms and an understanding of how to make and harness electronic sounds. A keen a history student then, as well as a talented musician! My newly installed enthusiasm and hope to be later dashed by another feature about Vhvl, under the title 'Indie Babe of the Week'. As if being called an 'Indie Babe' wasn't bad enough, you can only have one of them per week. If anything it gives further credence to Grimes' latest blog post deploring not only the sexualisation of women, but the patronisation they face from all sectors of the industry; artists, management, journalists and fans alike.

There have been many comparisons made between her music with that found on Brainfeeder, particularly its head honcho Flying Lotus, all of which seems very daunting to Vhvl: "Brainfeeder has made an extremely important, and undeniable contribution to electronic music. I love what they do. I still cannot wrap my head around the Flying Lotus comparison. It is an honour nonetheless, but I'm not sure I deserve that." If you were still at college and receiving this kind of praise, you'd probably be a little freaked out by it too. Having the amount of possibilities as she does now, you can forgive her for a being a little vague on the future of the project. "Everything is a surprise. There are two things which have the ability to be released before the end of the year. I'm very excited about one of them, and frightened by the idea of the other. I've been questioning lately if I even belong here. All that has happened thus far surpasses all I could have ever dreamed of. I'm truly grateful for that; infinitely thankful to the Most High."

Perhaps it is odd for an artist who clearly values expressing herself to choose a genre and a mode of communication associated with a level of indirectness, but it is undeniably the spiritual rooting of the project. "What I make is an aural representation of my past and present. I spent a vast majority of my life being silenced, being denied the ability to express my ideas verbally. My voice became music. All I sit down with is whatever weighs heaviest upon my heart. How it manifests itself is up to my psyche." Whether she 'makes it' or not, you get the feeling with Vhvl that it's best to just let it all out.


You can visit Vhvl by heading to her Soundcloud and Facebook pages.