Jlin's Blank Slate Turns 'Black Origami' into a Global Community Effort

Jlin's Blank Slate Turns 'Black Origami' into a Global Community Effort
Photo: Mahdumita Nandi
Without messing with the formula that made her 2015 debut, Dark Energy, so celebrated, Jlin's followup Black Origami (out now Planet Mu) presents an even wider scope of Chicago footwork from the Gary, IN artist, a genre and scene that focuses on busy and high-energy instrumental electronic dance music.
 
The title, Black Origami, also describes the way she approached her music, "When I create, all of my music starts off like a blank sheet of paper — that's why the album is called Black Origami," she tells Exclaim! "Because origami is the art of taking a blank sheet of paper and folding it into these beautiful, complex things and end up with an outcome that is complex, but in the beginning it started off as a blank sheet of paper."
 
Over 12 dense and percussive tracks, a healthy dose of sounds and ideas are explored on Black Origami, mostly though the crafty use of vocals that Jlin cuts into indecipherable samples. "When I pick [a sample] there's usually a reason behind it, and sometimes I forget what the reason is. It just happens to grab me that moment for whatever reason," says Jlin. "Every time I sit at the chair, it's a totally different dynamic, so I never know what the starting result is going to be and what the ending result is going to be."
 
This may be why "1%", featuring Tennessee experimentalist Holly Herndon (with whom Jlin previously collaborated on Dark Energy), stands as an album highlight. The claustrophobic track features the album's only linguistic narrative, albeit in the form of samples of a telephone operator.
 
In addition to Herndon, Jlin has also brought along Halcyon Veil's Fawkes for the surprisingly tempered "Calcination," South African rapper Dope Saint Jude for the stuttery "Never Created, Never Destroyed" and William Basinski for the divine "Holy Child," which came from a chance encounter with the New York composer.
 
"We were all performing at [Los Angeles museum] The Broad, but I had soundcheck; Preston [Wendel, who performs with Basinski] was watching me and he introduced me to William," Jlin explains. "They had come up and watched me perform and I remember at the end of the performance, William grabbed me and hugged me and kissed me on my cheek and said, 'You know we're going to work together, right?'"
 
But it was the discovery of Indian movement artist Avril Stormy Unger that, according to Jlin, truly inspired the music on Black Origami, "I came up in her suggestions on YouTube videos of people she should listen to, and she told me that when she heard my album she started dancing again. She had recently been diagnosed with arthritis at the time. I saw her dance on Facebook and I was just in awe, like, 'This will really work well with my sound.'"
 
Throughout her many collaborations and inspirations, Jlin insists that Black Origami simply comes from within. "It's about letting go, just trusting yourself completely. It's the feel that defines the impact for me."