A euphoric celebration of queer intimacy, Lara Jones’ glorious new ‘Fig’ EP is swathed in sensuous samples and glitchy electronics

“Why is it there’s not enough songs about queer love?” asks Lara Jones over a restless bed of rave hooks, rubbery synth lines and forceful juddering beats on ‘Fig’, the title track from the London producer’s new EP. The question arose during a conversation with her photographer wife, Jess Rose, who took the picture of Jones in a red dress in their shower that adorns the EP’s cover.

“We were talking about how images of men wearing dresses are always described as being powerful,” says Jones. “You don’t hear that so much when it’s a woman who maybe doesn’t conform to certain gender stereotypes – like me, as a masc lesbian – wearing one.”

Jones explains that, growing up, she never felt comfortable in dresses and that it was the worst aspect of being a teenage girl. The sleeve image, then, represents an artist concluding what she calls “a journey to get to a point where I’m so comfortable in who I am and how I present myself that I can now put a dress on”.

In a similar way, ‘Fig’ finds Jones using her voice on the five tracks in a more prominent and obvious way. It’s easily the biggest departure from her previous releases, and a signifier of where her music could go next.

“I wasn’t totally comfortable using my voice without loads of effects before,” she admits. “There were versions of tracks I made where it’s dry, but I wasn’t brave enough to put them out there. I feel much more confident now. Also, I think I had quite a strong message with this EP – using my voice is important because the people I’m trying to talk to could be vulnerable and hiding it doesn’t convey the right message.”

As an EP, ‘Fig’ is something of an enigma, with Jones’ vocals placed at the centre of a direct and unwavering collection of tracks, all rigid beats and electronics that fizz and snap with vital, decisive energy.

It’s also another significant progression from her 2020 debut album, ‘Ensō’, which was dominated by fragile ambient soundscapes and her determination to avoid being pigeonholed into a convenient genre box.

“I am actually a jazz saxophonist,” she laughs. “I studied jazz, and when I left college I was playing saxophone fed through guitar pedals. I’d do sets that were 45 minutes to an hour of free improvisation – that’s kind of where I began. That’s where I got to once I’d finished my studies, and ‘Ensō’ was made with that set-up.”

‘Ensō’ and ‘Fig’ feel thoroughly unconnected, with little noticeable DNA to link the releases. To understand the evolution that took place between the two, you need to listen to Jones’ ‘Flow’ EP, composed on the saxophone and released last year. Gone are the textural ambient passages that provide the architectural foundation for ‘Ensō’, and in their place is a harsher, more beat-driven, bass-heavy style. Once again, it’s a product of self-challenge.

“I discovered Ableton,” she says. “I became totally obsessed, and I’d spend every night playing with it, even though the number of effects was quite overwhelming. During the pandemic, I really missed going out dancing and hearing the music I loved, and then I had a revelation that maybe I should make my own version of that music.”

‘Fig’ also represents another stage in Jones’ ongoing metamorphosis – surrendering the very instrument she felt most comfortable with.

“Anna Meredith, who was my mentor for a really short period of time, was amazing and totally transformed how I compose,” she reveals. “One day when we were talking, I had some kind of conflict with what I wanted to make compared to what I was actually putting out. And then she said, ‘Have you ever thought of making music without the saxophone?’.

“When you go to jazz school, it’s so intense, and you become very attached to your instrument. You’ve practised with it for hours and hours each day, so her advice blew my mind. I think she knew there was something holding me back from making the sounds I really wanted to make. It gave me the freedom and permission to do it.”

The ‘Fig’ EP showcases Jones’ boldest, most complete music to date. Its relentless forward momentum only pauses on the highly personal closing track, ‘Absence’, about her father not going to her and Rose’s wedding. The standout ‘Look’– with its insistent handclap rhythm and central refrain of “I want to look like a girl who looks like a boy wearing a dress”– has a complex levity and danceable immediacy.

But it’s the nagging disquisition on the title track – “Why is it there’s not enough songs about queer love?” – that continually haunts your engagement with her new music.

“I wanted to write something that represented my community and me as a queer person,” asserts Jones. “There was a frustration for me when I was growing up that I didn’t see this represented and I certainly didn’t hear it in music. In sex education, it wasn’t spoken about. It wasn’t even legal to get married in this country.

“I think things are changing, and hopefully the next generation is having a better time with it all. I wanted to contribute by making something uplifting and positive that starts a conversation about some of these things. I feel that me asking the question on ‘Fig’, putting it out there, takes a little more of the weight off queer people.”

‘Fig’ is out via Bandcamp. For more, visit larajones-saxophone.bandcamp.com

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