Photo: John Hull / Backspin Promotions

Jlin Updates Her Approach to Percussion on ‘Perspective’

Synthetic or acoustic percussion, Perspective is another release that demonstrates Jlin is a genre unto herself and way ahead of the electronic music curve.

Planet Mu
29 September 2023

Jlin‘s music is nearly impossible to categorize, and the PR team at the Planet Mu label are not about to let you forget it: “Let’s be clear – she’s not EDM, IDM, electronic, footwork or post-footwork. Don’t use those terms to box her in. She’s simply Jlin.”

Okay, on the one hand, it’s quite true that the music of composer and DJ Jlin doesn’t fit neatly into any one box. Between the originals she’s recorded and the outside projects she has agreed to remix, Jlin has always been able to serve up unpredictable as well as indescribable slabs of electronic music to challenge her followers and confound anyone else. On the other hand, falling on such individualistic statements as “she’s simply Jlin” might not be helpful to you, the curious reader and potential future fan. It would be more beneficial to describe Jlin as a one-woman melting pot where EDM, IDM, electronic, footwork, and post-footwork all go to ooze into one another to the point where the only thing that emerges is Jlin’s musical identity.

Another way to describe Jlin, which Planet Mu gets correct in the press release, is as a composer. By combining many elements, or in this case, sounds, that would otherwise never co-exist, Jlin is constantly creating something new. Perspective, her latest EP, which is also combined with her Embryo EP for CD release, represents yet another strand of her creative process.

Jlin has recently collaborated with both the Chicago ensemble Third Coast Percussion and dance companies led by the famous choreographers Kyle Abraham and Wayne McGregor, which has greatly informed the musical direction that Perspective takes. By composing for both percussive instruments and dance performances, Jlin has honed in on what she calls a “more organic” approach to percussion for “a more tactile, grounded sound”. This signals only a subtle shift in her style, which largely holds the course of being maximalist in sound while remaining minimalist in form. In other words, wholly enigmatic.

Right from the beginning, you can tell the composer had percussion on the brain. “Paradigm” begins with an ostinato for a mallet instrument, altering its pattern in ways that are difficult to foresee. Once things get going, the track shows itself to be made of a variety of rattles and clangs that manage to retain melodic phrasing and dynamics. “Fourth Perspective” is made from an even more ramshackle rhythm arrangement, but Jlin’s otherworldly synth pad helps carry the music away from the land of kitchen sink racket. The foundation of “Dissonance” comes from pitched drums, the differences in their tones easily signaling the rise and fall of the musical figures.

There’s undoubtedly more to Perspective than the sound of things being struck. “Obscure”, for instance, is an excellent example of Jlin working within the already flexible boundaries of her earlier work by creating a soundtrack for a room full of confused robots throwing a dance party. “Duality” concludes the EP with an acute take on carousel-like sounds that spin the music around and around in dazzling tonality for more than six minutes. Of all the brilliant moments on Perspective, “Duality” is arguably the most spell-binding.

As mentioned earlier, ponying up for the CD edition of Perspective also gets you the Embryo EP, a shorter and less organic body of work that neither complements the parent record nor detracts from it. It’s a nice thing to have, considering that the 27 minutes of Perspective tend to blow right by you. At a lean 14 minutes, the four tracks on Embryo get right to work with every electronic beat and every tonal glitch flying across the mix at dizzying tempos. The final track, “Rabbit Hole, ” is a slight exception by slowing the tempo but keeping the music rhythmically busy as the shy synths periodically poke through the curtain of thick fabric woven by Jlin’s all-in methods.

An artist like Jlin doesn’t need to lean on the concept of change to draw attention to herself. She’s so far ahead of the electronic music curve that she could put her percussive experiments off for another decade and still blow us away with the ineffable nature of her music. Synthetic or acoustic percussion, Perspective is another release demonstrating that Jlin is a genre unto herself.

RATING 8 / 10