‘Dislocated Genius’ was the phrase and album title used to describe Chelonis R Jones on his first foray into the albums world in 2005. A songwriter and vocalist by trade, he impressed with a vivid if patchy first record, appearing subsequently as co-writer and vocalist on the striking Royksopp track 49%.
A visit to his website offers a further insight into this intense character, with multiple close-ups of his striking features, a steely pair of eyes threatening to watch your every move. Explore his paintings and their vivid colours and you get an idea of what the music might sound like. Then when you get to the Curriculum Vitae section, words such as ‘androgyny’, ‘violence’, ‘filth’ and ‘misanthropy’ are being bandied about.
A case of the tormented genius, as that title implies? Maybe… though he hides it well in songs such as the glacial Barefoot Through Hell, where a metallic beat and restrained vocal are the only things to stand out from a sound picture that is the essence of robotic control. It proves there is a voice to match those eyes, and that Chelonis Jones knows how to use it.
Yet on vocal-dominated tracks like The Cockpit, there are elements of a deadpan style giving homage to Grace Jones, only lacking a good deal of her panache. Put it through a vocoder, as he does in On The Run, and the results are colder still.
Unfortunately it’s the backing that doesn’t quite do Jones full justice on this record. While it ties in with Systematic’s minimal house sound, close to the techno interface, the feeling persists that the voice is too good for such sparse treatment. Occasionally the two do complement each other well, as in the weightless melodies assigned to Sky Is Sea, or the powerful riff that takes Rehabilitation apart, but when more complex production techniques are used they are applied to songs like Insects and Bathroom Mirror Legend, and lack a satisfying structure.
So while this might not be an outright success for a second album, Chelonis R Jones does still succeed in bringing across his personality. But therein lies the problem, as it’s a personality too few people will be able to pick out or identify with, when it’s presented in this way.
He may undoubtedly be something of a genius, and is certainly a high class vocalist, but it seems for now that this particularly striking figure hasn’t yet found the right musical clothes in which to dress.