Album Review: Jlin—“Free Fall”

By Adam Piotrowicz

Jlin is a name to watch out for in 2016. Born Jerrilynn Patton, the Gary, Indiana producer’s aggro-futurist take on the Chicago footwork sound is a ray of light among the massive shadow cast on the genre by the death of the pioneering, iconic DJ Rashad in 2014. And while the TEKLIFE Crew certainly carries Rashad’s spiritual torch into new territories, a lot of the originality I associate with Jlin’s style comes from the distance between herself and the timbres and general sampling choices associated with footwork. Her production ends up having more in common with being battered by the innards of a Mortal Kombat cartridge (Death Grips, anyone?) than the smoked-out and syruped-up aesthetic of tracks by DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn and other Chicago long-timers. Spiritually, Jlin’s stuff is without a doubt rooted in footwork, but rips the style’s form away from familiarity.

jlin-free-fall[1]

Album art for Free Fall

Jlin’s debut album Dark Energy, released last year on Planet Mu, brought her buzzsaw attack of video game-influenced textures to widespread critical attention. Planet Mu head honcho Mike Paradinas has successfully curated a footwork archive of sorts for about a decade at this point – the excellent Bangs & Works compilations are a fantastic starting point for those unfamiliar with the Chicago juke/footwork style, and also feature two of Jlin’s earliest tracks (“Erotic Heat” and “Asylum”). Jlin’s placement in a roster alongside footwork’s O.G. and arguable founding father RP Boo, amongst others, makes Planet Mu a summary of the past, present and future inclinations of footwork.

Free Fall is mainly a continuation of the explorations showcased on Dark Energy, introducing a few new tricks but also tipping the hat towards footwork’s roots. The freak-geek crystallizations of opener “Eu4ira” begin with a venomous, shrilling keyboard lick that quickly breaks into the essence of the footwork battle, complete with throbbing bass and hi-ranged percussion that demands a fighting stance. “I Am The Queen” closely resembles Dark Energy’s “Guantanamo”, turning a film audio excerpt into the framework of a track’s worth of post-Chicago pulsating aggression. The RP Boo-sampling “BuZilla” is a subtle nod to footwork’s historical lineage, but without becoming weighed down by the implications of such a reference.

Like the rest of Jlin’s work, Free Fall is an honest and exciting artistic statement, emerging from nowhere else but a personal drive to create. The fierce and personal nature of Jlin’s music flies in stark contrast to the utilitarianism and community-oriented aspects of Chicago’s footwork scene, and stands as a testament to her uniqueness as an artist.

The EP is fresh, exciting, and recommended for existing Jlin fans and newcomers alike. Clocking in at under twenty minutes, Free Fall is but a tiny glimpse of what’s to come from the forward-thinking Gary producer. Give it a spin and you’ll agree: the world needs to hear more.

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