The listening to Black Origami (from now on BO) reproduces the four stages of the encounter with the real: 1. Terror, 2. Denial, 3. Incomprehension, 4. Obsession. There is no surprise in that it was immediately positioned as one of the best music works of 2017. However, it is the incomprehensibility proper to BO itself that makes it so difficult to understand, or apprehend, and which is the reason for its success. How can a footwork album capture such a precise contemporary conjuncture that would render it so important? The precise cause for it is that which, at the same time, is the cause of its parallelity with the encounter with the real. In this sense, to explain in what way this work is so worth praising equals to accounting for the nature of this encounter with the real that it produces. We are going to elaborate this explanation through six theses, each one accompanied by a commentary. We hope it will shed some light to the album and, maybe, turn its density at the time of listening into a much clearer experience, and, as it happened to me, to turn terror into obsession.
- BO resolves the classic feminist and postcolonial debate around the constitutive belonging of the universal to phallogocentrism. The phallus has taken away and kept for himself the abstract, the speculative, and the universal, and they are not a constitutive part of its essence. A black woman, such as Jlin, is able to create the most contemplative and universal cultural piece of 2017. This does not mean that it is the best album that “represents” 2017, but that in 2017 (and who knows how long ago) a black woman has created, constructed or synthesised, the most universal piece. It must be borne in mind where footwork itself was born at: the Afro-American communities in Chicago. In BO the subaltern speaks the language of the real to disrupt the symbolic order of the white man. That is why the only voice that is heard throughout the whole record, apart from Nyakinyua Rise and Challenge, is the voice of a woman. And it should be asked, as well, under what circumstances the voice of man is permitted to speak.
- In fact, the election of footwork as the raw material for this record is not a matter of chance: it reveals a decision in favour of the selection of anonymous materials (what is called paleo[materials]) for the synthesis of a technique yet to come (futurism). Under these circumstances, times intersects asymptotically the unpredictability of the past (or undetermined future) with the post-determination of the future through its Singularity (total predetermination of the past). Time is constructed upon the interchangeability between the inherent conditionality of the future towards the past, just as much as its contrary (inherent conditionality of the past towards the future) in asymptotical non-identity.
- BO presents the spirit of a new prerequisite of our Culture: the return of the mystique as a conjunction of nihilism and the abolition of the distinction nature/machine. The extinction of all values cancels any possible oedipal prohibition of contemplation, which, once taken to its innermost last expression, is confused with experimentation. Likewise, speculation is under this supposition confused with praxis, and to accelerate becomes the exercise of anti-praxis, insofar as it pushes towards the eradication of the symbolic dichotomy that sustains them.
- BO opens the door to (or rather, demonstrates the existence of) what is called a speculative accelerationism. SA is neither left-accelerationism, nor right-accelerationism, nor centre-accelerationism (whatever that might mean). SA, unlike LA––which fights for the arrival of the civitate Dei under the legitimation of the common Go(o)d that functions as its principle of sufficient reason––and RA––mere expression of neurotic class resentment produced by the loss of privileges as a consequence of historical defeat––is only moved by the antihumanist drive towards the deconstruction of Anthropos that capital is bringing within itself. Yes, capitalism, especially in its late (i.e., advanced) stage brings the disintegration of organic communities and the loss of any life purpose. And yet, it is difficult to imagine anything as rotten and reeking as the organic and the living. What it smells to is the oedipal and the human, which are, under normal circumstances, the very same thing. If it is capitalism that is bringing the new episteme, so be it. Against the left: capitalism, under specific conditions, can indeed be its engine. Against the right: by the same token, capitalism can as well not be its engine. SA gives capitalism the place where it belongs: land and labour.
- If BO is a speculative album, this is rigorously so except in 1%, where for the first time, the listener can actually hear (or at least distinguish a priori) human voices uttering coherent phrases. No wonder this is the song in which Holly Herndon has collaborated. However, there is already an inferable correlation at work over which is worth focusing our attention: the coincidence between the introduction of the symbolic order through language and the appearance of “political” motifs [‘this is an emergency’; ‘you’re all going to die down there’]. This might point to the necessary co-belonging of both dominions. Rigor does not allow us to establish any causal relation––a mere correlation does not permit that––but it draws a common universe of discourse, at least if we hypothetically take the record as our total sample. The use of sounds common in ordinary experience so easily associable to everyday urban experience function as living proof of the fact that, once the symbolic is introduced, the logic of recognition and representation starts operating. Mean this, at least at face value, that the record falls prey to unsoundness or flaws in its essential project, I think that what happens is precisely the opposite: how can a speculative project be complete if it does not account for the conditions of emergence and nature of the symbolic and the ordinary, if the latter is to be regarded as fully derivative?
- In the face of the contemporary mathematical debate on the priority of the continuous or the discrete, BO takes sides with the second (the problem that Leibniz used to call de compositione continui). It is a quite commonly extended habit in electronic music in general to always presuppose a melodic plane over which the experimentation with beats stands. Think of one of the genres that is mostly characterised by experimentation, IDM: there is no piece that is not structured this way. In BO, however, the plane is not taken for granted: melody itself is fragmentarily given, such that harmony is not given either (not even partially), but it has to be constructed in equal conditions between the plane-melody and the multiplicities that build the beats. In strictly musical terms, it seems to me that this is the strongest bet that is carried out in BO: a harmony resultant of the specific construction of the piece from which it emerges.
Listen to Jlin’s Black Origami at Bandcamp: