LIVE REVIEW: Matana Roberts & Kelly Jayne Jones – Portico Library, Manchester

+ REBEKAH REID // Portico Library, Manchester // May 19th, 2018 //


Outlands and Fat Out present a unique live performance from two experimental musicians. Matana Roberts is a saxophonist and clarinet player from Chicago. Her ‘Coin Coin’ trilogy of albums were met with critical acclaim, released on Constellation Records. She has also collaborated with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Deerhoof, TV On the Radio and more. Kelly Jayne Jones is a flautist and electronic musician, as well as a Manchester resident, who has appeared on a number of collaborative projects.

The two have come together for a unique project of live improvisations, taking place at the beautiful Portico Library in Manchester city centre. It’s ceiling high shelves of vintage literature housed under a dome of stained glass windows, made for a stunning, intimate setting for strange and surprising live music.




Opening up the show is Manchester based violinist Rebekah Reid. Performing solo, Reid begins with her own variation on Vaughan Williams’ ‘The Lark Ascending’. Beginning with gentle strokes of the violin, she uses a loop pedal to construct layers of complimentary melodies, building them in the flesh.

After a melodic and soft opening piece, Reid’s own compositions explore more unsettling and discordant territory. As her set goes on, Reid’s playing becomes more vigorous, building complex layers with the loop pedal. Reid adds in her own percussion using an electronic drum pad. She also uses a contact mic to record fine and intimate sounds from maracas and other percussive tools.

Reid’s spectacular finale is a complex and free form journey resting on an electronic looped beat. The way she marries natural and digital instruments brings a fresh approach to performing violin and expresses a forward thinking way of implementing a classical instrument in the live environment.




Matana Roberts and Kelly Jayne Jones each perform at a table on each side of the makeshift stage in the centre of the library. Both desks contain an array of electronics and contact mics. The two begin their improvised set with a joint spoken word piece. The two purposely echo each others words, and occasionally interrupt each other, creating a jarring stereo/panning effect live in the flesh. Roberts gradually introduces an escalating electronic drone that gets louder and fuzzier, threatening to engulf the vocals. Jones begins to scrape rocks with the aid of a contact mic. Combining with the buzzing electronics, it becomes reminiscent of noise and power electronics acts such as Pharmakon and Prurient, only less harsh and abrasive sonically.

As the improvised piece moves on, the two performers add their trademark instruments to the mix. Roberts switches between her clarinet and the saxophone, whilst Jones plays the flute. The two have a kind of call and response going on. The absence of a drummer and a solid percussion base deconstructs any jazz leanings, and emphasises the drone qualities of the performance even further. Both performers languish in dissonance and atonal notes rather than anything melodic. In terms of structure, the piece feels formless, and often quite cold and haunting. Yet there are certainly spiritual undertones in the freedom of the performances, as well as the spoken word sections.


As the improvised performance winds down, the two performers close the way they began, trading off and echoing the same spoken word piece. Matana Roberts & Kelly Jayne Jones conjure one of the most unique and strange live performances you’ll see all year, and to see them perform in such an intimate, up close setting, in this beautiful library is something truly spectacular and unforgettable.

Words: Chris “Frenchie” French

Matana Roberts:
Kelly Jayne Jones:
Rebekah Reid:
Fat Out:
Portico Library:


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