BLACK ORIGAMI by Jlin
Genre: Footwork, IDM
Favorite Tracks: “1%,”Nyakinyua Rise,” “Carbon 7 (161)”
The cover of SPIN’s May 2017 issue (apparently being on the cover of something that will never actually be printed is still prestigious) reads “Jlin: The Dance Producer’s Rust Belt Modernism.” Jerrilynn Patton, AKA Jlin, stares tiredly out at us in a blue hoodie, inflicting upon us a sense of nerdy coolness, the kind that is natural but must be coaxed out during things like SPIN cover shoots. But this is a cover that has over the years graced Kurt Cobain, Kanye West, Jack White and Amy Winehouse—a level of rock stardom far from Jlin’s modest blue hoodie. It speaks to the quality of the musicianship and her ability as a producer, as well as the state of dance music currently, that Jlin would, digitally bastardized or not, be featured on the cover of SPIN magazine.
Even after processing her dense new album, BLACK ORIGAMI, to call Jlin a dance producer seems almost cheap. Certainly most of the tracks on the producer’s sophomore LP come across as some variant of dance music, and songs like “Nandi” or “1%” build feverish atmospheres with scattered rhythms, but the minimalist nature of her music places her in a different kind of category, removed from dance music altogether. You can hear the IDM influence of artists like Actress or early Tim Hecker, both of whom use space to really accentuate the high points of their songs or albums. And while it would be easy to lump Jlin in with proper footwork DJs like DJ Earl, RP Boo, or the late, great DJ Rashad, BLACK ORIGAMI and Jlin’s music are both headier than that, artfully created with an emphasis on silence, rather than boosted chaos.
BLACK ORIGAMI is a large leap for the 29-year old Gary, Indiana producer. Her 2015 debut, DARK ENERGY, was a serviceable introduction to her brand of footwork, but where that project felt of-its-time, BLACK ORIGAMI flourishes with more personality and brighter beats. The sampling is primarily rooted in Eastern influence, using instruments like the tabla from South Asia or a variety of different tambourines and chimes, not to mention marching snares and cowbells. DARK ENERGY was a less percussive-centric record and while the footwork she was exploring on that project wasn’t all that dissimilar in execution, her use of drum and cymbal samples give this album a fiery, tribal quality that stands out in the genre.
Amidst all that percussion is still Jlin’s signature space. While footwork contemporaries tend to have some semblance of melody rolling under the surface, Jlin boldly lets these membranophonic beats rest over virtually nothing. “Enigma” is essentially just vocal samples over guttural drum patterns for four minutes, and the same could be said of the echoing “Carbon 7 (161).” Even the rare moment where something appears beneath the snares and toms, like on “Hatshepsut,” the zippery drone pulses only fleetingly suck up the atmosphere. If we consider Jlin a dance producer, she comes from a place of primal instinct and conjures up visions of tribal bonfires and euphoric body movement, far from the type of dance music her contemporaries, minimalist or otherwise, are making.
When I go back and look at that SPIN cover, I can’t help but consider how perfect the situation is. As big room EDM music has started to regress into more experimental and less commercial corners, the door has opened for someone like Jlin to rise. DARK ENERGY was a well made laptop album, but it takes an artist recognizing a chink in the armor to capitalize with something bigger and bolder. That tired stare she’s giving on the SPIN cover is her steady recognition that, with BLACK ORIGAMI, she’s properly arrived on the scene.