Boomkat Product Review:
Preeminant footwork rhythmatician Jlin marks a decade at the vanguard of Afro-futurist music with a staggering magnum opus ‘Akoma’ , zipping up notable guest chops by Philip Glass, Björk and Kronos Quartet in its singularly pointillist yet mercurial electronic arrangements - a masterpiece of meticulous programming at the urgent service of moving mind and body.
From her base in Gary, Indiana - a steel mill city south of Chicago, also known as birthplace of the Jackson 5 - Jerrilynn Patton aka Jlin has shaken dance music to its core by drilling down to its rhythmic-spatial fundamentals. Her earliest work, ‘Erotic Heat’ off the influential ‘Bangs & Works Vol. 2’ compilation, was picked up by Rick Owens to soundtrack his runway show, and subsequent volleys such as 2015’s ‘Free Fall’ EP and ‘Dark Energy’ LP were among that decade’s most distinctive and groundbreaking, practically peerless for their meticulous construction and breathtakingly effortless effect and break with, or reformation, of tradition.
Mutable credentials staked, Jlin’s music has since soundtracked touring performances by Company Wayne McGregor, fed into the AI-powered noumena ‘Godmother’ in duo with Holly Herndon, galvanised a one-off with fellow prism-pusher SOPHIE, and provided cues for new music ensemble Third Coast Percussion, establishing a nonpareil reputation that led her to work with some of the world’s greatest musical minds, Philip Glass, Björk and Kronos Quartet, on ‘Akoma’; the album we’d play to aliens if they wanted to know the most forward music on the planet.
Still spurred by the upfront functionalism of Chicago footwork - a hyperlocal dance style developed and accelerated between the late ‘00s and into the ‘10s by her formative mentors, RP Boo and DJ Rashad - Jlin continues to re-calculate and forge that style and pattern into incredible new forms on the 11 breathlessly tight but ductile arrangements of ‘Akoma’. Working on, off, and around the beat in a unique conception of club physics, she generates a ravishing physical and imaginative energy that leaves most others for dust, showing up their programming skills when held in contrast to her devilish options and urge to break with convention.
In effect, Jlin’s music mirrors the nuclear energy burst of ‘60s free jazz as much as ‘90s jungle in its re-drawing of rhythmic lines, and with a steely focus on writhing sensuality that was ever key to that movement and which really sets her work apart here. Her mind for baffling complexity, cryptically distilled to be comprehended by bodies in motion, inherently dials up with a techgnostic finesse and innovation in a way that drives all the best Afro-futuristic music, and which is here deployed with uniquely startling oddness and brilliance.
So ye, we’re massive Jlin fanboys, and absolutely here for the likes of her body origami on ‘Borealis’ featuring a filleted Björk vocal, and likewise the counterpoint of her balletic, trilling pliés with Philip Glass’ piano vamps and chorales on the LP’ other bookend, ‘The Precision of Infinity’. She harnesses and rudely fucks with classical options of mutable meter in a flighty workout with Kronos Quartet on ‘Sodalite’, and the jagged, discordant strings severed into ’Summon’, whilst getting seriously under-the-hood of footwork mechanics on the warped thrust to ‘Speed of Darkness’, adapting the kind of drums heard in mahragant and dabke to her will with the immense ‘Challenge (To Be Continued II)’, and tumultuous polyrhythmelodic cadence of ‘Eye Am’, saving a more Euro-styled rocket recalling Araabmuzik’s trap-trance hybrids for ‘Auset’, and rooting her work in heritage with a nod to her nan, via the classic, dare-to-differ soul and jazz of Eartha Kitt and Nina Simone, with ‘Grannie’s Cherry Pie’.