Originating in Chicago during the 1990s, footwork is a frenetic, complex style of music. Drawing upon drum and bass, heavily syncopated samples, and generally hovering around 160 bpm, the genre challenges unsuspecting listeners with heady atmospheres and rapid changes of pace. Considering this technical difficulty, one understands why footwork has struggled to achieve — and maintain — widespread recognition; however, with producer Jlin‘s sophomore album, ‘Black Origami’, the style is poised to solidify its place at the forefront of “substream” musical consciousness.
Jlin (Jerrilynn Patton), who used to work at a steel mill, and whose earlier work evokes industrial textures, states that she creates “from a state of unhappiness.” While dark atmospheres certainly pervade ‘Black Origami’, the record plays almost in a celebratory manner, its pulsing, intricate rhythms mentally enchanting and physically invigorating audiences. Indeed, even when ‘Black Origami’ is at its most sinister on ‘1%’ — on which Patton collaborates with Holly Herndon — while sampling the Red Queen‘s “You’re all going to die down here” line from ‘Resident Evil’ (2002), rapidly pogoing electronics inspire visions of an inter-dimensional rave.
Part of this reserved exuberance seems due to Jlin‘s willingness to incorporate multicultural elements into her work. As Avril Stormy Unger, one of Jlin‘s collaborators, suggest, ‘Black Origami’ looks beyond its Chicago roots in establishing a certain kinship with Indian music through chopped vocal samples and blistering drum lines. ‘Holy Child’ and album closer ‘Challenge (To Be Continued)’ epitomize this immaculate fusion that borders on the spiritual. Elsewhere, ‘Nyakinyua Rise’, which alludes to the landless Nyakinyua Women Group, and ‘Hatshepsut’, the second historically confirmed female pharaoh, contribute to the LP’s ambitious global scope.
Succinctly, the album is musically thrilling. Trilled, skittering beats on the title song propel listeners headlong into multi-layered soundscapes while standout track ‘Never Created, Never Destroyed’ rightfully swaggers over subdued, yet delectable, bass. Only her sophomore release, ‘Black Origami’ represents an astonishing breakout release for Jlin; moreover, the record feels destined to represent an essential entry within the footwork genre. While the record will undoubtedly be included on numerous year-end lists, its long-term value lies in its potential to dissolve arbitrary genre restraints and lift similar artists to greater heights.
‘Black Origami’ is out now via Planet Mu.