(Copyright © 2018 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Dark Energy (2015), 7.5/10
Black Origami (2017), 6.5/10

Indiana's female black producer Jlin (Jerrilynn Patton) popularized Chicago's street dance "footwork". Dark Energy (Planet Mu, 2015), released a few months after footwork pioneer DJ Rashad had died of an overdose, concocts a dense jungle of ultrasound beats and syllabic samples, borrowing not only from electronic dance music but also from the techniques of "concrete" music and free-form collage. Jlin assembles a vast percussive palette and uses it to compose a wordless thriller, never brutal but always nerve-wracking. Patton's work on rhythm evokes Ikue Mori's Garden (1996) more than the dancefloor of Squarepusher, and her work on vocals belongs to a tradition that harkens back to Morton Subotnick's Touch and Karlheinz Stockhausen's Hymnen. The opener, Black Ballet, is misleading: Michael Nyman's symphonic minimalism coupled with abstract vocals; but the gothic fervor is emblematic of the rest. Machine-gun polyrhythms and chopped Indian melodies fuel Unknown Tongues, a more typical sonic assault. The marching androids and Ethiopian percussionists of the brief Black Diamond and the swarms of titanium bees vibrating like thousands of tiny earthquakes in Expand (a collaboration with Holly Herndon) forge a new form of ballet. Sometimes Jlin abandons the emphasis and retreats into subtlety: more than a soundtrack to sex, Erotic Heat (a 2011 track) sounds like a collage of inaudible noise picked up by a microscopic microphone inside an electric circuit. The propulsive dadaist pantomime Infrared and the bouncing elastic distorted Ra that seems to elaborate on it are as linear as Jlin can get. The album's pathos peaks with the psychodrama for intricate industrial beats and random sinister voices Guantanamo and with the chaotic psychodrama Abnormal Restriction.

Much of the original frenzy is lost on Black Origami (Planet Mu, 2017), a much more conventional work of electronic dance music with ethnic influences (perhaps the effect of working with India-based choreographer Avril Stormy Unger). Black Origami sounds like a session with fourth-world trumpeter Jon Hassell and a Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria. Alas, few of the other pieces manage to integrate the exotic instruments in a creative manner. Mostly we get a parade of tedious exotic sketches like Nandi. Kyanite, an elegant but facile collage of vocal games, is the footwork equivalent of the chill room. A volley of randomly pounding beats cannot rescue Hatshepsut from its lack of both energy and imagination. Carbon 7 (161) sounds like a passable remix of Pink Floyd's Money. Holy Child, a collaboration with minimalist composer William Basinski, fills the pulsating soundscape with floating imploring female voices. Even more "ambient" in spirit is the brief Calcination, not too far from Enya 's new-age music. After a while, the Afro-cuban percussions and the sampled "pan-cultural" voices become routine and lose their charming power. Flirting with hip-hop on Never Created Never Destroyed (a collaboration with rapper Dope Saint Jude) does not help, although the song ends up being a cute send-up of the genre. Even 1%, another Herndon collaboration, fails to build momentum after having thrown into the mix an arsenal of vocal and percussive tools. Thankfully, the album closes with the apocalyptic shamanic dance Challenge, but it's a case of too little too late. This album sounds like a retreat into safe territory. If Dark Energy was a relentless nightmare, Black Origami is the diligent homework of an aspiring ethnographer.

Autobiography (2018) was conceived as the soundtrack to a ballet of British choreographer Wayne McGregor. It contains the visceral single The Abyss of Doubt and the Steve Reich-ian Carbon 12, as well as drum-less ambient vignettes like the two interludes titled Anamnesis; but it generally sounds like a lightweight version of Jlin's productions, and almosts like a collection of leftovers from

(Copyright © 2016 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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