Collaborating with Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet, the pioneering polymath from Gary, Indian, redefines ideas of genre and expands everyone’s musical horizons in the process

On Jlin’s Akoma, music is continuously evolving. The Indiana-based composer carefully crafts her works, sculpting and chiselling them like a sculpture from marble. As they unfold, they grow into sprawling webs, getting more intricate with each phrase. Meticulous detail has always been the throughline of Jlin’s compositions, and throughout Akoma, she lets the fluidity and ease of her shape-shifting patterns drive her music, exploring the smooth transitions she can make between a variety of different polyrhythms. 

Jlin has carved a niche for herself as a genre-blending and defying composer whose influences span styles and mediums. She has brought footwork to groups like Third Coast Percussion, who played her Pulitzer shortlisted piece Perspective; she has collaborated with musicians across genres, like Holly Herndon, SOPHIE and Kronos Quartet; she has also worked across mediums, with visual artists including Kevin Beasley and Nick Cave as well as working in the fashion sphere. Akoma continues to explore her work as a unifier of artistic ideas, bringing in features from Kronos Quartet, Philip Glass and Björk and introducing drumline rhythms. Though she collages many elements together, her music feels less like a patchwork and more of a fused wave that ebbs and flows with each shift.

With Akoma, Jlin uses these building blocks to create different worlds on each track. There’s the dreamy sound of ‘Borealis’ at the start of the record. Later on, ‘Open Canvas’ takes a sharper approach, creating pointillistic beats that mix with gently twinkling melodies that shimmer like gossamer stars and strike like lightning. With ‘Sodalite’, the Kronos Quartet’s intricate string playing is spliced between beats, creating a sprawling patchwork quilt of trilling violins and techno. That track seeps into ‘Granny’s Cherry Pie’, a light collage of high-pitched, glimmering tones and pulsing rhythms. All of these tracks stem from similar inspirations and ideologic touchpoints, but no two offer the same atmosphere – some are dramatic, while others sparkle and float, and others still feel like dancefloor medleys.

Closer ‘The Precision of Infinity’ feels like the clearest synthesis of the ideas and themes Jlin explores throughout Akoma. The track blends the moodiness of Philip Glass’ solo piano music with the palpitations of Jlin’s footwork patterns, weaving them together so seamlessly they feel like a perfect match despite their different atmospheres (one moody, the other upbeat and fiery). Jlin has always reached across musical genres to create her music, and with Akoma, she reminds us again that genre is a malleable idea meant to be redefined and reshaped.

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