I’ll confess to not really knowing too much about Jlin, other than she’s a female electronica artist from Gary, Indiana. 2014’s Dark Energy, I know, met with vocal critical acclaim, but by that point my big electronica kick of Four Tet, Flying Lotus, Caribou and Ikonika among others had sort of ended, and I was a religious devotee of the twee pop revival — Real Estate, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Twin Peaks and beyond.
If electronica’s existence is paradoxical in any way, which I don’t necessarily think that it is, then this paradox is manifest in the reality that (a.) at least, logically, it represents our primary hope for an eternally rewarding and sociologically authentic musical form to unite us and (b.) similarly, with its lack of analog sounds, it would seem to offer but a finite amount of possibilities for true innovation, making itself vulnerable to repetition and posturing (ahem, Com Truise, ahem). About 10 seconds into Black Origami, you start to wonder whether “posturing” is even in this person’s vocabulary. While other pretenders grapple with hip-hop, or attempt a formulaic dance with its corpse, to be more descriptive, Jlin orchestrates a simple but entrancing score with harpsichord strings and spare but punching snares, all over a song structure which is creative in its phrasing. My main complaint with titled track opener is that it’s too short. Like seriously, Jlin is catering to vinyl? Why? These masters are obviously digital.
“Enigma” comes in sounding… tropical! He** yeah. This is not a Pharmakon/Wolf Eyes retread, which I was worried it would be — this music could play not in bars… think maybe the downtown Gary South Shore stop… and you know what, I’d be passin’ the douchey with the black dudes there or whatever. Ok, that’s going a little far. Along these lines, it would be cool to see a Jlin/Freddie Gibbs collabo, just to keep things in Gary (this seems to be the decade of Gary, last decade owned undoubtedly by Detroit). One thing you’ll like about “Enigma,” anyway, is that the meter has a way of constantly shifting in on itself, as if John Bonham smoked weed with Steve Albini and wrote some electro. A LOT of weed. Obviously.
By “Kyanite” we’re at a basic miasma of influences — Silk Road elements even crashing the party, as if maybe Jlin listened to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack 10 times before writing this album, and then traded in her guitars for some sweet rim shots on her laptop. We retain the safari element here we’d incurred on “Enigma,” giving this definitely an element of “world music” (the first ever instance of “electro world music,” then, in fact). “Kyanite” calls to mind M.I.A. not least for the chopped-up female vocals rhythmically fu**ing things up all over the place, but the most fun sound comes with what I believe is some sort of distorted trumpet which is morphed into almost sounding like a human voice. “Nyakinyua Rise” doles out rhythmic fervor by the barrel full (I was thinking like the barrel of a shotgun), those tropical bongos still in there doing a death dance with cut-up hat hits that enter and exit with mind-boggling speed. The mood, as compared to “Holy Child,” has changed from sad to confrontational, a basic technique within the understanding of an album’s internal progress, but imbued importantly is the sense of the confrontationality of a GROUP OF PEOPLE, like a tribe which has chosen to mutine. Side a closeur “Hatshesput” is basically a haunting episode of six/eight high hat madness, very much like a more militant Flying Lotus. Actually, it reminds me of someone, I just can’t seem to think of exactly who. Grimes. That’s it. Early Grimes, Halfaxa-era.
“Calicination” gives an edge of panic and spare rhythm, with some pristine but somehow lacerated vocals, giving the mental image of the victim of violence. Of this, “Carbon 7 (161)” steps in as an ostensible continuation, solidifying side b’s ambient sympathies, the music’s overall style still firmly lodged within the ubiquitous “jungle.” “1%,” after “Nandi”’s ambient continuation, is basically too twisted to even believe: after a brief bout with hip-hop (like as in five seconds), this crazy string of stuck-together rounded-up and tweaked kicks and rapid-fire micro-synth send your ear drums into a holy pandemonium, the song’s arguable most intriguing part being the motif of Nmesh-harkening postmodern pop art, the phone-error samples flanked by the repeated mantra of a little British girl saying “You’re all going to die down here”. “Never Created, Never Destroyed” again hints at hip-hop, this time sustaining the rubric with a sampled vocal which in fact even sounds like M.I.A. (I highly doubt it is).
So what does this album MEAN? He**, time will tell. As we know, for as fun as electronica music can be, it’s also very disposable, and it remains to be seen whether in 2018 we’ll go back to this album as a continuing soundtrack for our lives, or if maybe Fly Lo, Nmesh or Actress will come back and steal our hearts again (or crush them to death, to be exacter). One thing’s for sure: it’ll make a righteous platform for the arguments of a bunch of douche bags trying to assert as to whether it’s “dubstep” or not. And that’s when I “step,” to the Exit sign, for anyone wondering.