Creating something shouldn’t ever be easy
It’s actually quite hard to tell you what Jlin sounds like. The alias of producer Jerrilynn Patton, her music isn’t something that you can easily label.
Originally grounded in footwork, the combative dance scene that swept through Chicago in the late ’90s, Jlin’s sound has quickly transcended anything you could care to call a genre. Since arriving on the scene in 2008, Patton has become one of the most intriguing artists working in electronica, building a name for herself via her own remarkably prolific output as well as remixes and collaborations with the likes of Max Richter, Bjork and Factory Floor.
Even though she hails from Gary, Indiana – a city that was once known for producing the Jackson Five but is now often held up as a poster-child for white flight and the midwestern Rust Belt – Patton staunchly refuses to be defined by any sense of place or belonging. With her albums ‘Dark Energy’ and ‘Black Origami’ enjoying widespread critical acclaim, Jlin has cemented her place as one of dance music’s most forward-thinking and exciting artists.
Musically, Patton takes an almost Nietzschean approach to techno. Her compositions strip dance music almost back to its component parts revealing the darkness underneath. Songs like ‘Nyakinyua Rise’ and ‘Enigma’ turn the tense, aggressiveness of juke and footwork in on itself. As we speak over the phone on a dreary Monday afternoon, the idea of ‘collision’ is a concept that seems to keep cropping up, and thinking back, it’s actually a pretty apt description of Jlin’s whole sonic philosophy. Like a nuclear reactor, she takes minimalised drums, paper-thin synth lines and warped vocals and pressurises them into something that is deeply introspective. So much so, that an hour spent with the producer’s back catalogue often feels more like a vision quest or a fever dream than listening to a dance record.
Look underneath the soundclash and dissonance, though, and you’ll find a clear love of dance, not only as an aesthetic art form but as a way of spiritual and emotional expression. Jlin may not want to want to make dance music in a traditional sense, but her sound has nevertheless retained a clear, propulsive energy. ‘Black Origami’ might have seen her work drift toward ever more unconventional places, but there remains this strong, undeniable motive force underpinning everything.
Her latest work, ‘Autobiography’, delves into this aspect of her music in a way that no one has ever seen before, Jlin included. A collaboration between Patton and Stockport-born choreographer Wayne McGregor, her remorseless, pulsating soundtrack is a meditation on the very idea of human movement. Designed to accompany McGregor’s frenetic dance-style, it is wild, frantic, deeply personal and oftentimes weirdly spiritual. All of which kind of sums up what Jlin is about these days.