At the tail end of 2012, an album of bewitchingly sparse acoustic music crept into the vinyl racks of the nation’s record shops without fanfare. It represented the gathering together of songs written for nobody but Jessica Pratt herself, which had been pulled together to form a debut that sounded like the sort of thing that reissue label Light In The Attic would have deliriously unearthed from the early Seventies. Pratt’s voice, somewhere between Karen Dalton and Vashti Bunyan, was accompanied by a plucked acoustic guitar and the warm fuzz of the tape to which it was committed. It remains a firm favourite and I’ve elaborated on its charms elsewhere.
For this second outing, now signed to Drag City, she recorded all analogue to a four-track and the background hiss is once again part of the sound. The result is a sound the seems to hover in the room, hard to pinpoint but utterly captivating as if beamed in from another time. The neat little gear changes in songs like ‘Game That I Play’ are delightfully odd and this is an album that is wilfully out of step with pretty much anything else released this year.
A few dabs of colour are added to the original formula, such as the distant clavinet of ‘Moon Dude’, which only adds to its woozy, lilting charm, and a light touch of electric organ on the opener ‘Wrong Hand’, but the focus understandably remains on Pratt’s unique voice. The lyrics tell wry stories about the trials of city living in the twenty-first century, balancing up emotions surrounding love and loss. Their delivery is always magical, Pratt pushing and pulling her performance all over the place. At one point during ‘Greycedes’ it sounds like she’s just gently descending and it’s quite something.
‘Jacquelyn In The Background’ takes this one step further, manipulating the recording by varying the speed of the tape and bending her voice out of shape. The already slightly trippy feel rendered by the incessant hiss is ratcheted up a level and you have to check you’re not hearing things. Indeed, that sense of listening to something ‘other’ is hard to shake. The beneficiary of a beautiful vinyl pressing, this is a late night listen without peer and one made for the analogue realm. Its inherent sonic limitations rather neatly fit the inherent sonic limitations of that beloved format.
‘On Your Own Love Again’ is a timeless record by a remarkable talent who it’s not unreasonable to suggest is only just starting to show what she can do. Both releases to date are pretty much essential, but it remains to be seen if the bare bones approach will endure. It certainly suits these unadorned but penetrating songs, which grow in stature as they grow in familiarity. It’s hard to imagine anyone not being delighted to make their acquaintance.