Jlin – Dark Energy (2 stars)

The producer pushes footwork into darker nooks as her new record weighs heavy with a stringent, sobering tone

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Jlin – Dark Energy

Jlin’s earnest, tempestuous footwork – that frenetic Chicago sound – does not originate from a happy place. The Gary, Indiana producer admits herself: ‘My musical sense of expression comes from sadness and anger.’ So if you like your footwork to be fun, and with bit of frivolity (‘We got drank/we got kush/we got bars in this bitch’ etc) this is not the album for you. In fact the record weighs heavy, a bit too heavy, with this stringent, sobering tone.

This is boiled down dystopian music. Jlin clearly is keen to push footwork into darker nooks, and it succeeds in that this is a challenging record, that offers something different from peers such as Traxman, RP Boo and the late DJ Rashad. But the seriousness is too pervasive. At its most testing the record feels like some reductio ad absurdum attempt to make footwork as jarring, unfriendly and obtuse as possible. ‘Guantanamo’, for example, could not be more aptly titled, with its aural assault of random shrieks, deep cycle bass, and a relentless buzzsaw rhythm. This frenzied intensity has an immediate and innate appeal, but the brooding relentlessness chips away. It’s stark, isolating and cold by the end. That is the idea, no doubt, but a bit of lightness with all this shade would have been welcome.

While it’s generally an abrasive listen fuelled by this mordant energy, in the context of the dancefloor, tracks such as ‘Unknown Tongues’ and ‘Black Diamond’ with their zippy tribal cues and the pulsating ‘Erotic Heat’ possess a distinct feistiness. See, it’s not that that this is a bad album. It’s an interesting and brave record, an inventive one, and as a one of the few female footwork producers making waves, an important one. It just happens that it’s more focused on structure, tone, and a pointed potency than making something a bit more inclusive, and, you know, enjoyable.

Jlin is released on Thu 26 Mar on Planet Mu. You can pre-order it or download it from the Planet Mu store now.

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