Jlin // Embryo
(Planet Mu)

In her evolution as an artist, Jlin was already way out in her own field when she first broke through. The Indiana-based footwork firebrand felt like one of the first to truly show where the Chicago-rooted dance form could head with a more experimental mindset. That’s not to say footwork wasn’t experimental to begin with, but as with techno and all other genres, interesting things happen when outside forces start spinning variations from a founding formula. In truth, three albums in Jlin sounds more like Jlin than she does footwork, but even as this new EP darts out into fresh territory you can hear the pace and fragmentation of the genre setting the tone. 

There is a definite look towards fresh sound palettes on Embryo though, especially on the title track. You can sense a little more techno propulsion in the low end, no matter how often the locomotion gets disrupted. It’s the lead synth sound which takes the prize though, coming on with an acidic buzz which feels like a specific incitement to rave in a thoroughly Midwestern sense of the word. It’s also remarkable how fractured Jlin can make things without losing that thrust that makes a deadly dance track. 

There’s also a bleep n’ bass thread running through ‘Auto Pilot’, although here it feels a little more like an incidental side effect of the intense drum workout. It’s ‘Connect The Dots’ where things get wild again, with a hissing, slithering line in DSP production which captures the essence of electronica at its most extravagant. It’s charged with acute angles, a frenetic pace and a rush of sonic information, although never at the expense of the groove. 

What’s interesting is how Jlin can pivot from that kind of hi-octane action to a curiously low slung kind of funk within the relative constraints of her approach. ‘Rabbit Hole’ is a much sparser affair which again picks up threads of bleep but gives them plenty of breathing room to flirt with P funk-informed synth flex. The EP overall seems to come from one focused area of inspiration, and it’s a zone we haven’t explored with Jlin so far. Within that, she can find ways to express distinct ideas, call back to the foundations of Black dance music (Detroit techno, bleep, P funk) and come out sounding like nothing else around. 

Review originally published at Juno Daily, reposted here with kind permission.