Jlin, “Akoma”
By James Gui · March 22, 2024 Merch for this release:
2 x Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Jlin’s career has played out like the polyrhythms she’s become known for, ideas coming in and out in rich counterpoint. With blistering 808s footwork as her starting point, she’s brought in African and Indian hand drumming, Reichian minimalism, horror film samples, HBCU drumlines, and ballet soundtracks, each bringing out new contours in her unique percussive touch. On Akoma, the various rhythms, influences, and sounds she’s experimented throughout her career come together in lockstep: this record contains Pulitzer-recognized, concert hall minimalism alongside some of her most danceable tracks yet, in a deft display that the two don’t need to be diametrically opposed. Unified by Jlin’s signature eerie, futuristic affect, Akoma is an example of an artist at her prime, a sampler of everything that makes her one of electronic music’s most forward-thinking composers.

Whereas her solo work has tended toward dark, hermetically-sealed beats, Akoma introduces expansive synth atmospheres that showcase her rich tonal sensibility. On “Iris,” triplet bass rhythms dance around a spacey synth that alternates between reverbed-out sustain and a choppy transform filter. “Auset” gets even more cosmic with arpeggios that float above heavy, peak-time kicks, jackhammer snares cutting through the Drexciyan murk. “Open Canvas”—a reference to the way she begins every composition on a blank sheet—builds from a bubbling cauldron of bass, before introducing a transcendent harp sample. And “Grannie’s Cherry Pie” is pure kinetics, eminently danceable and battleable, propelled by a blissful synth that soars above its bassline and razor-sharp claps.

Other tracks recall familiar experiments in a novel way: “Challenge (To Be Continued II)” is a sequel of the final track on Black Origami, fusing spacious trap rhythms with hand-drumming samples reminiscent of ABADIR’s maqsoum manipulation, topping it all off with HBCU drumline flair. “Eye Am” is a sonic reimagining of Kitty Phetla’s rain-dance-inspired ballet choreography, weaving rain sticks and tabla drums in between ritualistic melodies. “Sodalite” and “The Precision of Infinity,” for their part, display Jlin’s modern classical sensibilities in chopping up string and piano samples with a mixture of reverence and abandon, teasing out their microrhythmic complexity. And while familiar symbols of her preoccupation with darkness reveal themselves in Mortal Kombat samples, “Summon” conjures an unease that unfolds over four minutes of erratic, atonal string samples. With Akoma, Jlin’s compositions display the kind of rhythmic and affective mastery that she’s been working toward throughout her career thus far. 

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