Renowned British choreographer Wayne McGregor invited electronic musician Jlin (Jerrilynn Patton) to compose the score for his contemporary dance performance piece Autobiography after the two met in 2016. Patton had always wanted to attend a dance performance, but never dreamt that she would end up providing the music for one, and that it would be the first one she ever witnessed. Up until Autobiography, Jlin had become known for making highly frenetic tracks which focused almost entirely on percussion and bass, with barely any melodic elements and a limited number of vocal samples. As she states in the liner notes, working on Autobiography changed Patton's perspective on composition, and the majority of her music for the dance piece is vastly different than her prior work. Many of the tracks are amorphous pieces which completely avoid the aggressive, complex rhythms Patton had been known for, instead concocting spacious, meditative drones. Opener "First Overture (Spiritual Atom)" consists of swirling chimes and drops of water accented by flashes of suspenseful strings and reverberated slams, building up the listener's anticipation for what's to come. Both parts of "Anamnesis" are sparse and dreamlike, layering pensive melodies with birdsong and other natural sounds, floating freely rather than hitting forcefully. For that, there's "The Abyss of Doubt," which fits perfectly within Jlin's repertoire of harsh, frightening tracks like "Guantanamo" and "Abnormal Restriction," right down to the horror movie soundbytes and "Sounds of Jlin" drops. In between those two extremes, "Carbon 12" is graceful and certainly ballet-worthy, beginning with gentle vibraphone patterns and gaining carefully measured trap-adjacent beats and minimal, sparkling textures. "Permutation" and "Annotation" are sharp and buzzy, both seeming to draw from rave and EDM but sounding more cerebral than hedonistic. One of the album's biggest surprises is "Blue i," which marries soothing, atmospheric pads with sideways-swaying rhythms sculpted from African percussion instruments, sounding closer to mid-'90s ambient jungle than Chicago footwork. Coming from an artist who previously stated that she couldn't create music from a happy place, this is easily the most blissful and relaxed her work has ever sounded. Autobiography is unquestionably a vast step forward for Jlin, further confirming her status as a visionary artist. If it wasn't obvious already, following her long, illustrious career will be tremendously exciting.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson