- "You start off as this blank sheet of paper, this innocent thing. And then life starts bending and folding, bending and folding... I'm still being bended and folded. We all are." When explaining the title of her new album to Pitchfork, Jlin suggested this process eventually makes us into a "beautiful" piece of origami. But her tracks, which she composes from beginning to end without going back to make structural revisions, emphasise the turbulent folding process over the outcome. Her unique and overwhelming new album, Black Origami, doesn't present an attractive finished form so much as an identity in the chaotic process of taking shape.
This portrayal of identity as provisional and complex isn't the only way in which Jlin's music recalls 20th century modernism. Her striving for originality, her taste for darker themes and the stream-of-consciousness unfolding of her tracks all echo the movement in one way or another. She cites the ground zero of musical modernism, the controversial premiere of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite Of Spring, as inspirational. But perhaps she shares more DNA with an expressionist like Arnold Schoenberg, whose discordant music dug deep into the anguished subconscious. Theodor Adorno wrote that "the depiction of fear" is central to music like Schoenberg's. Jlin told Pitchfork that, in making music, "You have to face things about yourself you don't even want to face. I have to go into a space that makes me cringe every time I go there."
This cringe carries over to the listener. Black Origami is more refined and sophisticated than the Indiana producer's debut, 2015's Dark Energy, but it's no less brutal. If anything it's sharper, and certainly denser. Expanding on 2015's between-albums track "Nandi", the spartan drum palette associated with Chicago footwork has been joined by a wild battery of percussion. On tracks like "Enigma," "Kyanite" and "Nyakinyua Rise", trilling hand drums and tom toms, cowbells and flickering shakers spill out in triplet cascades, punctuated by clipped vocal samples. On "Hatshepsut" and fiery closer "Challenge (To Be Continued)," military-style snare tattoos up the ante even further.
Other tracks make fleeting contact with the world outside Jlin's mind. Her footwork roots are most audible on the Holly Herndon collab "1%," with its panicked klaxons and battle-ready voice samples. "Holy Child" was made from a loop of Baltic folk singers sent over by William Basinski, and "Calcination" features wordless singing from Halcyon Veil's Fawkes. The latter track is the only break from the album's rhythmic assault. By this point you're gasping for one. (Planet Mu reportedly asked the album's mastering engineer to tone down its sonic aggression; it remains an eardrum-scorching listen).
This is another way in which Jlin is a modernist: she's not afraid to make her art difficult. In fact, she almost treats difficulty as a virtue. (In the Pitchfork interview, she hit out at ambitionless producers: "You made something 'cause it sounds good? For real? You're not doing enough.") Black Origami can be intimidating: it's dark, relentless, and makes substantial demands on the listener. But it's also powerful and distinctive. In the world of rhythmic electronic music, nobody else is doing it quite like this.
01. Black Origami
04. Holy Child
05. Nyakinyua Rise
08. Carbon 7 (161)
11. Never Created, Never Destroyed
12. Challenge (To Be Continued)