29 May 2017

Jlin - Black Origami (album review)

There’s a scene in Toy Story where Buzz and Woody are trapped in the Sid’s bedroom; he decapitates toys and switches their bodies creating Frankensteinien monstrosities who are introduced as terrifying, but in the end they play a key part in the protagainsts escape. The various snips and snags and jagged fluency of Jlin's sophomore Black Origami sounds like it is a collection of compositions created by these unlikely heroes. It’s a dark and completely shattered form of unique beauty.

After her debut Jlin immediately shot to somewhat of a critical darling in the experimental world, with Dark Energy being hailed as album of the year by both Wire and The Quietus. However it’s not just the critics that have showered her in praise; IDM legend Aphex Twin considers her his favourite contemporary producer.

All this hype is justified; her approach to soundcraft and ability of swift shifts in tone and energy throughout tracks is phenomenal. Dark Energy is as Shadowy as its titled suggests, whilst unsettling tracks like Guantanomo and Abnormal Restriction are so bombastic and hard hitting they make Hudson Mohwake’s production sound like elevator music. The vocal samples on said tracks will be on the first flight to your nightmares after you’ve listened.

Black Origami relies less on singular moments and works a lot better as a complete piece. Its sounds infinitely less human than its predecessor this is shown through the highly skewed vocal samples on pretty much every track. In the first three cuts the samples when fused with the tribal percussion sound as though they’re being played at a Mardi Gras on a far out planet beyond the depictions of any known science fiction.

The eeriness of this album comes in the form of cuts like Calcination and Holy Child. Despite the slick modern production, these songs feel like the sonic equivalent of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. The closest Black Oragami comes to delivering a club ready ‘banger’ is Never Created Never Destroyed; the trap production layered with the high pitched vocal samples which sound like Die Antwoord thrown in a smoothie maker and crying for help. “You are All Going to die here”, the prominent vocal sample on the track 1% is an echo of the initial feel the latter half of the album gives off.

It would be hard to place Jlin’s production into a genre category it’s far to unformulaic and flat out bizzare to be pigeonholed as IDM; fans of Clark and Sqauarepsuher probably aren’t going be impressed by this one. Jlin clearly is a child of footwork pioneered by the late DJ Rashad. Black Origami is a lot more abstract then the likes of DJ Earl her work seems to disregard structure and the grooves on the album seem to be constructed in a more rigid fashion which encourage less rigid movement.

Once the last track Challenge (to be continued) you are left craving more. The sheer complexity of this album will blow your mind. As the title conveniently suggests the album literally folds together like an intricate piece of Origami with as many twists and turns as its cover art.


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(Words: Aimee Armstrong)