Autobiography by Jlin

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Jlin | Music from Wayne McGregor’s Autobiography
Planet Mu (2xLP/CD/DL)

Since this record isn’t officially out until the end of the month I wanted to save it for the conclusion of Womens Work Week here at Toneshift.net. Plus, of all the incredible artists featured this week, Jlin is the only one I have had the pleasure to see play two live sets (2016), and she is dynamic and diverse in her skills. She can be as much a technical wizard as she can perform as a stylish urban DJ, so I was incredibly curious as to how she was going to interpret her sound within the scope of contemporary dance performance, here as a quasi soundtrack for the British Wayne McGregor Company. And I think the collab is one of those things that begs for seeing dances move to these icy cuts, so here are a few clips that feature her sound:

And so goes the record Autobiography (Music from Wayne McGregor’s Autobiography) into some exquisitely new territory with fresh material, like a quilt made up of thirteen odd parts. A very different sound and big departure from her previous Black Origami (2017) though slightly more reminiscent of 2015’s Dark Energy, in those ‘tween twisted moments, and where she breaks for breath. Opening with the glass chime quietude of First Overture (Spiritual Atom) the elegant angular quality to the percussion has an enormous amount of restraint as she poises for what is sure to be explosive, yet this overture takes us to church in its subtle ambience with the occasional balloon-like effect.

As expected Annotation rises up with a funky street beat lightening the stage. This is an out there house/acid techno with some of the old school synth technics embedded deep, and I’m only imaging the dancers wriggling to these bpms. When Carbon begins, with its Asian/island vibes that have some in common with Philip Glass I definitely imagine choreography to go with this, the sound is like a running stream, quite dreamy and bright. An abstract beat structure is hinted at, but wisely never fully employed by the pad-style drums are the perfect foil for this otherwise take on traditional music.

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Throughout the record there are these compartmentalized vignettes, some with voiceovers, some featuring sumptious piano (Anamnesis (Part 1)), but then there’s The Abyss Of Doubt as heard on the clip above. It’s a slithery cut-edit affair, that balances American and Euro aesthetics quite well, with altered voices and a serrated beat. Jlin’s sound has become so rich in a short three years as she’s traveled and further honed her craft. This will appeal to strait techno fans and experimental electronics geeks alike.

Though it’s on pieces like First Interlude (Absence Of Measure) that I see the most growth and reach. It’s a completely ambient work with what seems to be sound samples or field recordings with a slight echo effect, stirring only slightly amidst a cautious drone. This is further dramatized by a thunderstorm going on in real time as I write this. Though as we all listen in our spaces, outside noise and circumstance is always part of the listening experience. This piece emphasizes your personal space. It’s absolutely gorgeous, no other way to describe it, and unexpected. This proves that a DJ from Gary Indiana, one of the most hard-edged places I’ve ever been, can rise way above and channel a spirit that transcends any surroundings. Of which she says: “The local community is a little more knowledgeable of me now. But I don’t mind my community taking its time.”

 

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Permutation brings the beat back, and it’s a measured kronk of sorts, buzzing like a yellowjacket (or a muted smartphone). When Kundalini begins with its trancy South Asian aural aerobics I’m delighted by the shakers and repetition, it oddly reminds me of some of the outtakes of Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration album. The track has mysterious corners, after all it takes its name from ancient Sanskrit. Nature’s call rings out on the super sheer Anamnesis (Part 2) with sparse piano and bird calls you are sitting in a wonderous place during a light sunshower. It’s just glistens with subtle futuristic electronic effects, dreaming of a new world. Next the spirit of warm jungle rhythms are explored with voice and drumming on Blue i. Again she nails the essence of otherness, bringing in such diversity of traditional sounds to her sonic concoction.

But its the conclusion that truly grabs me for the long haul. Second Interlude (The Choosing) is a dynamic range ambient track with several transparent, changing layers, and a melancholic, melodic set of piano keys. The smoothest atmosphere sails so softly into that great night. In the end, her score is ridiculously funky, technically on-point and elusively delicate, a rare balance.

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This review is part of Womens Work Week – a celebration of international women working in experimental and electronic music genres. If you enjoy this review you may also be interested in one of these additional releases that we are covering this week on Toneshift.net:

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