Jlin feat. Philip Glass, “The Precision of Infinity” (Planet Mu) 

Gary, Indiana's Jlin (aka Jerrilynn Patton) has reigned as one of footwork/juke's most interesting and sophisticated producers since she began releasing music nine years ago via England's Planet Mu label. Birthed in Chicago, footwork mutated from elements of hip-hop and ghetto house into a fast-twitch strain of electronic dance music mainly built on repetitive and manipulated vocal samples and frenetic beats—all the better to challenge the city's slickest dancers to achieve unprecedented moves.

Jlin's 2015 debut album, Dark Energy, harnessed its titular force and proved that footwork could get abstract and weird. She demonstrated that she could bring it live, too, with a stunning set at the final Decibel Festival in 2015. In a review of her performance for The Stranger, I wrote, "She coaxed strangely angled beats and swarming bass tones that spasmed with a jittery fierceness. Jlin’s grooves are elusive, jagged, tumultuous, and militantly distinctive. Sometimes they sounded like boulders caroming inside a washing machine, sometimes hitting like staccato whipcracks, sometimes coming off like ’90s-era Squarepusher slowed to 16 rpm. It sounded like one very odd and special version of the future of club music." Subsequent releases have only broadened her compelling sonic palette.

Jlin's new album, Akoma (out March 22), is her first since 2018's Black Origami, on which she exploited her ability to generate singular drum timbres and to weave distinctive vocal samples and strange atmospheres into footwork's rhythmic matrices. Akoma boasts guest appearances from highbrow luminaries Björk, Kronos Quartet, and Philip Glass, making Jlin the genre's best chance of crossing over into the pop and academic-music worlds. The latter legendary minimalist composer contributes piano to the first single from Akoma (which means "the heart" in Ghanaian).

"The Precision of Infinity"—which is such a Glass-like title—shifts into fifth gear from the start, with a fidgety rhythm shimmying amid rapid, clean-blooded piano clusters from Glass's nimble fingers. The soundtrack composer for Koyaanisqatsi and other films has always had a manic dimension to his music that fits well with footwork's mercurial tempos, so this collab is not as bewildering as it may initially seem. Jlin's intricate, spasmodic drums and bass seem to spur Glass to heroic heights on this brilliant introduction to Akoma, which is one of the year's most highly anticipated albums in avant-garde electronic-music circles. 

Andy Aquarius, “Waters Above, Waters Below” (Hush Hush) 

At the seldom-traveled yet charming intersection of New Age, classical, and folk music resides Andy Aquarius's supremely chill harp compositions. The Berlin-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist debuted on the Carnation-based Hush Hush label in 2021 with Chapel, a six-track album full of delicately fluttering harp and mellifluously devotional vocals. Hearing it's like floating in an ice-cool pool full of flower petals, in a mansion run by a benevolent cult. You may feel your pulse dip into single digits.

Aquarius has another full-length coming out via Hush Hush (run by Alex Ruder, host of the Pacific Notions show on KEXP) on March 22 called Golla Gorroppu. The title is a phrase that Aquarius conceived after meditating on the Gorropu mountain range in Sardinia, which he hiked in 2020 and 2021. His English translation of the title is "The Throat of the Mountain.”

For this record, Aquarius expanded his tonal range with help from Ferdinand Kavall (hammered dulcimer, bowed guitar), Josephine Pia Wild (choirs), Raoul Vignal (steel string guitar), and Semeli Sophia Kostourou (violoncello).  Aquarius adds Celtic harp, voice, lyre, and synths. The overall sound on Golla is subtly richer, but still elegantly spare. The chamber-ambient pastoralism recalls some of the kranky-era output of former Seattle musician Benoît Pioulard. Aquarius leaves lots of space in his pieces, in order to let listeners breathe in their pristine, high-altitude air. The mental clarity that this music facilitates cannot be overestimated.

The album's first single, "Waters Above, Waters Below," rolls gently and beautifully out of the gate, relaxing your beleaguered 2020s mind state with gracefully soaring strings and a harp motif that makes the typical Nick Drake song sound uptight. This is healing music, but it also takes you on a mystical trip into unfamiliar natural territory—definitive proof that Aquarius is licensed to chill.