It might be a bit presumptuous to call Jlin intense, as she seems like a fairly easygoing person in interviews. Her music, though, is utterly relentless, a mash of harrying rhythms and samples melded into one frenetic whole. It all falls nicely under the label of “footwork” for some, but make no mistake; Jlin is not some hack producer out to ape DJ Rashad’s moves to get ahead. Dark Energy was a startlingly original piece of work, an album of big ideas and deeply personal motives. On Free Fall, we don’t get so much of a continuation as we do a peek behind the curtains. These four tracks have the feel of works in progress or peeks at Jlin’s process more than they do as actual, completed pieces.
One thing to note about Free Fall is the lack of cohesion among the four tracks; this isn’t the sort of unified statement that Dark Energy was. Rather, Free Fall works as more of a mixtape than a proper EP or LP, a collection of quick bursts of creativity that have some thematic bent but stand more as individual pieces. The tracks all skew closer to the standard footwork sound than some of her previous work, but everything is filtered through a pop-culture-skewering perspective that Jlin embraces with gleeful abandon. There is a shared aesthetic throughout, though, as Jlin combines horror-kitsch and junk culture samples in a way that delivers sly nods to the listener. Not everything on Free Fall is doom and gloom; if something seems like a bit of a joke, it’s delivered with a nod and a wink to assure you that it was meant to be good fun, as with the Carrie sample on “Eu4ria”.
That isn’t to say that Free Fall is a disposable record in any way. For any moments of fun and wry humor, there are surreal, paranoid moments to balance them out. “I Am the Queen” wields its sampled statement like an oncoming threat as it stomps forward, the head of an oncoming army. On “BuZilla”, the distant roar of Godzilla and the repeated pronouncements of “live and let die” bring a sense of dread to the chaos that had, only two tracks earlier, seemed almost euphoric. It gives the impression of walking out of a killer dance party only to find that the apocalypse has started. As the EP winds to a close with “Nandi”, its most conventional track, it’s almost disappointing that the exhilarating chaos has to wind down.
Obviously, Free Fall isn’t the sort of watershed release that Dark Energy was, but Jlin’s talent clearly hasn’t diminished. As a collection of disparate ideas, the EP remains thrilling despite its disjointed nature. Think of it as a workout piece, an example of an artist showing off a bit coming off of a real triumph. Very rarely, though, do victory laps like this act as an indicator of even more promise. It would therefore be a little inappropriate to call Free Fall a victory lap; think of it as more of a mic drop.