Quiet Signs

Jessica Pratt

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Quiet Signs Review

by Fred Thomas

Throughout her catalog, singer/songwriter Jessica Pratt's music all but vanishes into its own shadow, the presence of her murmuring vocals and airy nylon-string guitar so faint that songs melt into each other or simply turn to mist. While vaporous, Pratt's songs are anything but slight, as her songwriting is so focused that she can control a mood or shift the color of her compositions from behind a curtain of spare notes and hanging thickets of reverb. On her first two albums, Pratt subtly shifted the light and temperature of her songs as the albums trickled by, both captured through hissy home-recorded means. Third album Quiet Signs is her first one recorded in a proper studio, but somehow her elfin vocals sound stranger and more obscured, floating out from behind waterfalls of reverb or humming at alien frequencies as on "As the World Turns." Rather than sacrifice some of the intimacy of home recording for more sterile production, Pratt chooses to retain that hushed glow and augment it with ulterior arrangements. "Poly Blue" is a spring-like jaunt that finds Pratt's vocal harmonies playfully dancing around center stage. Deep in the mix, threads of synthesizer, piano, organ, and even bubbly flute wind around the more audible elements. Likewise, "This Time Around" and "Here My Love" both read as stripped-down solo tunes, but barely there synth strings and piano chords appear briefly and recede without a trace. Even when a breeze of flute unexpectedly drifts through the middle of "Fare Thee Well," the album's expanded arrangements never distract but only support the distant magic of Pratt's songs. The running time of Quiet Signs is just under 28 minutes, all but demanding listeners to play it on repeat to catch the nuanced details stitched into the songs. Though earlier albums saw her crafting a strange otherworld, the perpetual sunset hinted at before is painted here in new dimensions, making this set of songs her best and easiest to revisit.

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