Jlin - Black Origami
To say that Jlin’s new album Black Origami is ‘eagerly anticipated’ would be the understatement of the year. Her debut, Dark Energy, topped many best of year lists and blew people’s heads off when it came out a couple of years ago, through its utter originality and sheer beauty
Jlin originally emerged working with a dance genre from Chicago, footwork, but Dark Energy took this genre to unprecedented places. This new record is so beyond footwork, beyond anything as precisely defined as a mere musical genre, that it’s the most difficult piece of music I’ve had to write about this year. This may be because it’s also the most original, and quite possibly the best, piece of music I’ve had to write about this year so far.
It’s also one of the most intensely percussive, with computer game glitches and klaxons rubbing up against and phase-shifted vocals interspersed with real percussive sounds, from such exotic instruments as ankle bells, Tibetan drums, and a ‘storm drum’. If much contemporary electronic music is bathing in the warmth of analogue sounds, Jlin embraces the clarity and precision of digital to such disorientating effect that I understand her label Planet Mu toned down the masters!
If footwork was originally designed for dance battles, it’s virtually impossible to imagine actual humans dancing to this, rather Kali or some such deity; it sounds like ceremonial music for the arrival of the gods come down to earth
If Dark Energy with its splayed polyrhythms and pitch-shifted vocals suggested something more akin to Steve Reich, it should come as no shock that here she works with an actual avant-garde legend William Basinski, and that the result, Holy Child, is utterly ecstatic, while retaining the identity of both composers.
Elsewhere also sees collaborations with Holly Herndon, on the (very slightly) more traditional - in that you could actually dance to it - 1% - with it’s brilliantly menacing samples and pressure drops.
But ultimately, this record inhabits a sound universe entirely of Jlin’s creation, one brimming with possibility.
Black Origami is released May 19 on Planet Mu