In January 2019, the Fader published a series of clipped interview commentaries from Jessica Pratt to mark the release of ‘Aeroplane,’ the third and last single issued in the run-up to her 2019 record, Quiet Signs, as well as the last track on the 27-minute LP.
Pratt briefly alludes to the curious dialectic that she (here pronoun-ed as ‘you,’ en lieu of I’) and her audience have construed and been absorbed into. She put her music into the world, set some expectations, envisaged the affective scope of that introduction, and replied to her anticipation of her listeners’ response; imagining a preconception and performing that cut-out, in her own words.
Aeroplane hints at the weight of that sentiment, with the opening line Reflection of your memory in the window. It impresses the ever-ordinary shock one might get in a barber’s chair or a hair salon, one mirror in front and one in back, volleying ever-shrinking images of nape and brow to an infinity too small for the ray of the vanity bulb.
Pratt’s statement suggests an admission of taking part in an iteration of that sort of constriction, an image of an image of an image, as her guess of fans’ wants binds the span of her sound. This even – and rightly so! – as she chafes against critics’ takes that she fits in a predictable lineage of folkists: Joan Baez, Karen Dalton, Sibylle Baeier, et al.
From Aeroplane back to Night Faces, the intro to her eponymous 2012 debut, Pratt has worked almost exclusively with two tools, her voice and a hollow-body guitar, to groove ever deeper into a narrow channel of beauty. Her throat stringz in a pair of registers, high-chiming and dusty, as she alternates between strummed cyclicals and meandering plucks, mingled with the hiss and pop of cassette decks. End to end the effect has been, for the better part of a decade, both earth-dense and gauze-light, sustaining a chorded tension between intimate and ambient – her records can often convey the sense of furnishing a wood-slung attic, alongside Edison lamps and lushly worn carpet.
Hers is music to lean back and into, adrift at a lolling walk or laid lone on a divan until the pitch of a phrase is raised above the groundwork of sub-guessing we do in a track’s every passing moment – what often comes second to the lull is a small, comely surprise, a hook and line that can draw one out of the water daydreams. Twang begins to thin out, or a fog-mirror silhouette traces over the face of her voice, and the calm, easy beauty of her musical range rings clear.
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