The unexpected but wholly deserved shower of acclaim over Dark Energy, the debut full-length by Gary, Indiana-based producer Jlin, resulted in one of electronic music's most inspiring success stories of the mid-2010s. Jerrilynn Patton created the album over the course of several years in between working shifts at a steel mill, taking the tense, aggressive Chicago footwork sound pioneered by producers like RP Boo, DJ Rashad, and Traxman into darker, more personal territory, motivated by fear, anger, and depression. After Dark Energy appeared on numerous year-end album lists, Patton quit her day job in order to focus on writing and performing music, feeling that there were far more opportunities waiting for her outside of the steel mill. Black Origami demonstrates the astonishing amount of growth that has occurred in the two years since Patton's debut; in fact, she no longer considers herself part of the footwork genre. Her production style is so much more intricate and knotty this time around, and while it's still highly intense, it's more cerebral than aggressive. There's a sense of spaciousness here, and the presence of a collaboration with ambient composer William Basinski therefore makes more sense than it might originally seem. While Dark Energy still had enough booming bass to serve as a soundtrack for the dance battles traditionally associated with footwork, Black Origami is much more fluid and delicate, and informed by ballet and contemporary dance in addition to more club-oriented dance styles. Patton has collaborated extensively with Bangalore, India-based choreographer Avril Stormy Unger, and had announced plans to work with award-winning British choreographer Wayne McGregor on a stage production titled Autobiography. An expansive, globally conscious perspective and ambition inform all of the album's tracks, which are constructed from a multitude of percussive sounds, instruments, and voices. These range from marching band drum lines to djembes to nearly operatic vocal samples. While still somewhat dark and sinister, some of these tracks sound festive compared to Patton's earlier material; one could imagine Omar Souleyman singing over "Kyanite." There's also a devilish playfulness to "1%," Patton's second collaboration with Holly Herndon, which is filled with phone messages and samples proclaiming "You're all going to die down here" and "This is an emergency," along with sirens and punishing bass bursts. "Never Created, Never Destroyed" is the most overtly hip-hop-sounding Jlin track to date, with mutated trap-like beats and the chopped vocals of South African MC Dope Saint Jude. In comparison to another dense, dizzying Planet Mu release, Black Origami seems poised to gain an audience far outside the footwork circle the way Venetian Snares' Rossz Csillag Alatt Született has become the most well-known work to originate from the breakcore scene. Black Origami is a monumental achievement, yet it still seems like Jlin is just getting started.
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AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson