Words: Jasmine Alavuk
With new single ‘Jenny (Breathe)’, June Jones of Two Steps on the Water fame steps further into the spotlight as a solo artist. This is a song of survival, which June sings to herself and others who, in her words, are “hurting and [need] a place to rest, recalibrate, and breathe”.
Since releasing her debut album Diana in 2019, June Jones has been teaching herself to self-produce her work on Ableton. A tiny, Lenovo ThinkPad is her electronic studio – a portal to synthetic manipulation that ducks and weaves around her words. This is how she crafted her latest single, ‘Jenny (Breathe)’, which dropped last week on October 14 via her imprint label, Emotion Punk Records – newly represented by Remote Control Records. The song is inspired by a period of Jones’s creative exploration, in which she spent much of December 2018 submerged in bathwater, listening to audiobooks by the sci-fi author, Ursula Le Guin. The process inspired her sonic articulation in the track, saying, “I wanted the song to combine elements of traditional, contemporary, and futuristic, while retaining a strong sense of human emotion, as most of my favourite sci-fi writing does”.
I’m not familiar with sci-fi writing, but what Jones (and her long-time collaborator Geoffrey O’Connor) has created is an experimental sound design that permeates a sense of stillness for the untamed mind. It seems as though sci-fi is a meditated escape, which, by the same token, Jones harnesses through her supportive lyricism, vouching for the listener to find an escape in her music. Jones’s homemade synthesisers are waxy and warped – drawling around the drum machine as the beat patters and builds like pools of rainwater. The textures are invigorated by silky drips and electronic drapes, while her signature prose is performed in her rich timbre. The single is simultaneously soothing and potent, capturing a meaningful mood in Jones’s imaginative creativity.
The accompanying music video, directed by O’Connor, captures this, using artificial rain and an old phone with a broken screen to frame clips of Jones. Her temperament is forlorn, as she sits isolated inside electronic devices, almost like a friend trying to comfort another. But this is just an interpretation. With the video, Jones and O’Connor have discarded narrative and instead, created a mood piece to reflect the song— “something both warm and cold, alive and inanimate, populated and desolate”, says Jones. These juxtaposing elements portray something altogether complex and, ultimately, human. Through her lyrics, Jones insists, “I promise that the air down here is clean… so breathe”. The words evoke a sense of safety for human emotion, much like her affinity for sci-fi, reminding her audience of the most basic human instinct – to breathe. And, in doing so, Jones offers a destination of reprieve – a song of survival, for the survivor.