When albums tell you what they are… that’s the one. I will never not be allured by old jazz records that announce, in the space of their title, the thing they’re doing -- often with the shout of an exclamation mark. I am coming around to the simplicity of it, and I’m glad Jessica Pratt is too: naming her album Quiet Signs, she re-ups the aesthetics of Erik Satie, Yellow House era Grizzly Bear and, maybe just because I’m feeling his loss, Mark Hollis -- artists who make shapes before disappearing into a fog of loud silence, as drawn to the complexity of sounds as they are to the fact that there’s no one else in the room as they’re making them.
Imagine it as the sequel to Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way: melodic, musical and happening, I still fall in love with the idea of it barely existing at all. With a slower approach, and less of the pointed guitar picks that have marked her career so far, Pratt focuses our attention on the space itself, and the ease in which she can occupy it. This record feels as calm as it is because it brings those two things together: music writers will talk ‘atmosphere’ to you, but the musician’s reaction to it is vital. Do they recognise it. Do they take responsibility for it. The environment of Quiet Signs is special because Pratt’s songs are totally wrapped up in it, the two entering into an unbreakable relationship that sounds like the surest, most secure thing of all time. It’s what, half an hour long, but Pratt’s staying there.
I’ve listened to this record more times than I can count; on the first day I heard it, I just let it play on repeat, gliding through my day until I wasn’t sure if there were nine songs on it or nine hundred. It’s not an alternative to silence: these songs are memorable enough to warrant an AOTY spot, so we'll see. But Quiet Signs does make me think about what kind of companion a song, or an album, can be: cocooned in its world, I feel those unknowable, indescribable feelings that only places and things can give you. Pratt calls it Quiet Signs because of what space, sound and silence can indicate -- and what they can't explain.