On Monday evening, the line out the door of the busiest movie theater in the US wasn't for Black Panther, but for Jlin. There were also plenty of people there for Black Panther—I crossed a sea of ticket touts on my way in—though the Indiana artist's fans made a bigger impression, looking around confusedly and wandering through the multiplex in search of the bass.
The event was part of Interference AV, a three-night festival put on by Clocktower Productions and Times Square Arts. The performances went down in Theater 13—which the week before had been showing a science-fiction film called Maze Runner: The Death Cure—and the music was paired with visuals from the collective Undervolt & Co., VJed by members Sabrina Ratté and Peter Burr.
While introducing Jlin, a representative from Times Square Arts told the audience about the organization's work, which seeks to magnify the "creativity and edge" of the famed shopping, office and entertainment district. The event opened with a video showing public art projects they've put on in the area, mostly sculptures and installations that acknowledged—but offered little perspective on—political issues like climate change and immigrant rights. These works presented thin criticism of Times Square, and it was a shame to see an accomplished musician like Jlin lumped in alongside them. That said, though the pretext of the night was a bit tone-deaf, the programming was excellent.
New York artist Sadaf played first, beckoning hellish wails from her violin and issuing echoey shrieks through glitchy and explosive rhythms. Peter Burr, who handled all the visuals, cycled through pulsing, red blobs that offered little in the way of figuration. The sum experience evoked disembowelment, or perhaps birth. For Jlin, Burr focused on non-descript humanoid figures who fell, ambled and writhed through vast gridded and staticky landscapes. It was a fitting accompaniment to her music, which often plots estranged vocal samples along intense and chaotic rhythms. She blazed through cuts from last year's Black Origami LP ("Holy Child," "Nyakinyua Rise," the title track), and it was clear that Clocktower had put in work on the sound, which was as full and clear as any movie-going experience, if not ten decibels louder.
The crowd, packed into the rows of seats, would probably rather have been dancing, but it was remarkable to look around and see an entire movie theater swaying in unison. Their support for Jlin was clear. She kept a staid demeanor as she played, the audience yelling and applauding as she introduced each new element. She may as well have been the protagonist of an action blockbuster.
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