Jlin wrote “Embryo” for Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion, the Grammy-winning contemporary classical group; the ensemble’s interpretation of the song is due out next year. Though it’s easy to imagine the mallet magicians interpreting Jlin’s high-speed mathematical polyrhythms, it’s going to be difficult to follow up her own version, which moves at a pace frenetic enough to challenge even the most nimble of human hands.

If there’s a unifying principle to Jlin’s work, it’s the element of surprise; her music expands and contracts, pummels and relents, jumping in and out of more pockets than cargo pants. On “Embryo,” an insect-like synth serves as the track’s voice, leading us through each movement: It’s a crunchy syncopated buzz atop the driving four-on-the-floor rhythm in the first minute, then skitters in the negative space between bars in the second. When a monstrous groan emerges in the third minute, it feels genuinely uncomfortable but undeniably exciting. It’s an easy place to find yourself when listening to Jlin’s music: overwhelmed by a percussive maelstrom that’s both in concert and in competition.

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