Kelly Jayne Jones is looking for something. Contact mic squared directly into a shallow well of charcoal coloured bricks, she is unearthing sound, bringing it from its once unutterable silence into a loud, public space. This is what you see in her performance of ‘Four Walls Black Hollow’, delivered in 2015 around Manchester. She has long had an interest in ‘geology as a sound source’, and in amplifying these objects. At once, the microphone captures something physical and intangible, the deep, crackling sounds of the rock almost mythological – if only because it’s so rare we hear them. It is, in a way, the project of Jones’ art: uncovering these hidden sounds, she uncovers something of us.
Previously, Jones was one half of the enigmatic electroacoustic band part wild horses man on both sides, a duo who graced DIY spaces with toolbox noise and wasteland psychedelia. Their music was improvised, and it told intergalactic stories: with instruments ranging from ancient musical artefacts to modern hardware, their sound veered between folk music for an imaginary land and noise rock disembodiment. This network of experiment can now be found in recent solo output by Jones, including the utterly beguiling Clay Tablets, Hoarded Creatures, a dark ambient suite that weaves together a medley of spectral timbres. At times the tape echoes the deep listening drone of Pauline Oliveros, while at others putrid noise crinkles at the listener’s ears.
Jones has never worried too much about whether you like the sounds; you still might discover something in the process of disliking them. In making the cavernous drones, spartan free jazz and gurgling vocal intonations of part wild horses mane on both sides, she was exploring the fringes of our shared understanding – as she told the Quietus, ‘The actual meaning of the word psychedelic is an internal search for previously undiscovered parts of your mind… I guess music, the way we explore sound and music, is an attempt to try and find corners that we’ve not really discovered before.’
As a solo artist, Jones is keen to unravel the parts of ourselves that remain unknown. Her recent work is ‘based upon the themes of the unconscious, asking how can art have the potential to be a supportive environment to explore visceral emotion, psychological awareness and performance as a site for transformation.’ Sound becomes an apparition, as if through hearing particular music we can conjure up the subconscious images that belong to us, and momentarily grasp them.
It is a unique approach, and a people-oriented one. Genres like ‘hauntology’ and ‘psychedelia’ are commonplace now, but they have been abstracted, stripped of relational properties. With her music, Jones wants to make the phenomenal personal again, bringing psychology and transcendence into their human stories: the subliminal, behind-the-eyes drone of her album ‘Dream Recall’ was made in response to a record by Jon Collin. With wispy flutes and sifting tones, it sounds like a new age ambient album being taken out of the astral plane and situated onto solid earth. In solo performance, Jones has become increasingly interested in amplifying the sounds rocks make, drawn to the uniquely physical music they make.
A committed collaborator, Jones is interested in building networks and relationships with her music, and in creating communal experiences: speaking to the Quietus, she described being ‘aware that in a group, or in a live performance, you can really influence other people in a positive or negative way. It could change their life!’ It’s led her into a series of projects with differently interactive elements, involving visual motifs, choreography and audience participation. She recently created and toured a performance with Matana Roberts, the free-jazz saxophonist and noisemaker behind the revelatory COIN COIN project. Like Jones, Roberts weaves music, combining sound and text to create a historical tapestries of America, uncovering that which has been buried. As a duo, they wrapped polyphonic spoken word performances around sonorous and whirring drones, interspersing their soundscape with improvisations on their instruments. Jones and Roberts elected to play their collaboration by ear: planning very little, they let themselves be surprised, and changed, by one another’s contributions.
Jones’ appearance at hcmf// 2019 builds on the relationship she developed with the festival as a participant in our International Showcase, as part of which she received two-years of professional mentorship. Her year has filled up: not only has she been touring solo material, she has also created a series of sound installations, connecting sound to specific spaces. She’s contributed a piece to the Whitworth galley’s tribute to the lithophone, an instrument made by John Ruskin out of stone fragments, and has also worked alongside Haris Epaminonda on an installation for Venice Biennale. Following on from these works, she visits hcmf// 2019 in collaboration with Dan Valentine, presenting an installation that aims to ‘connect with other dimensions’. The rocks will make a comeback: amplifying them, Jones will unearth further secrets of our existence, diving from the material world into the great unknown.