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Jessica Pratt

LIVE REVIEW: Jessica Pratt, Jazzhouse, 30.08.2015

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Jessica Pratt’s album Night Faces was a regular on my stereo in 2014. Spotify even claims that she was the artist I played the most during that whole year, though the fact that I often fell asleep with Night Faces on repeat might have messed with their stats. But this is just to say that I had really been looking forward to hearing her live. Yet as the show progresses I find it hard to enter the music, and it is only when I close my eyes that I find the Jessica Pratt that I have come to hear, her music at the same time intimate and distant.

I open my eyes again, gaze over the chairs – the concert is one of those where people are seated – and ask myself what the ideal concert with Jessica Pratt would look like. What comes to mind is an installation by Olafur Eliason, Your Atmospheric Colour Atlas (2009): a room filled with fog (like a Sunn O))) gig ) and lit in different colours, so that you get the feeling of being completely isolated and immersed in colour.

I close my eyes again and a new image appears. I imagine Jessica Pratt by a window in a rooftop apartment playing her guitar (something like this session with St. Vincent), and I realise that to me Jessica Pratt’s music lives on the extreme side of the distance/intimacy continuum – and that the setup at Jazzhouse doesn’t take me there. But let me be clear, Jessica Pratt and her guitarist perform the music to perfection, and Pratt’s dreamy voice and finger picked guitar come out crisp and beautifully accompanied by her second guitarist. The volume is low, very low, but it helps to bring her closer. Jessica Pratt addresses the audience with only a few words and doesn’t do much to boost the visual appearance of the show. That is not what bothers me either, I can’t image it would have suited the music if she had taken on the role of an stand-up comedian.

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In the end it comes down to the rows of chairs lined up against each other, the plastic kind that are hard to sit on and easy to stack. I get the point about seated concerts: they help people shut up and keep their phones in their pockets. Looking over the rows of people sitting upright, backs straight, I see a woman leaning her head on the shoulder of a man. It looks as if they are having a magical moment – Jessica Pratt’s music has the potential to create those. This time it only happen to me as I shut out everything except the music. I guess I have to work on my attitude towards chairs. 

LIVE REVIEW: Jessica Pratt, Stengade, 28.03.2015

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Jessica Pratt (Press Photo)

Although the heavy wear on the floorboards shows that this space is more than a jar for fireflies, the size of Spillestedet, Stengade’s main room, probably doesn’t exceed that of your average middle class apartment. For Jessica Pratt, whose recent LP On Your Own Love Again was almost entirely recorded in her bedroom, it’s a good setup.

Same goes for warm-up act Cian Nugent, an instrumental guitarist out of Ireland. It feels like a school dance with a wide open space in the middle of the floor as Nugent steps around a cute couple sitting on the edge of the stage to begin his acoustic set, which garners little reaction, if any, from anyone. This is partly due to the fact that Nugent is a noodler — a highly skilled one, but a noodler nontheless — and it’s difficult to tell whether he’s actually starting something. He specializes in vast-feeling folk compositions that occasionally get lyrical accompaniment but are more often built upon with these impressive technical flourishes. One moment he’s picking through the spectrum of a particularly pretty chord and the next he’s ripping a brassy tone straight out of the Chuck Berry book of licks. And in those moments it may be a secret that his songs do follow some sort of blueprint. I only get smart to it 25 minutes in when I notice myself hanging on every note. Nugent eventually gains the respect of the room, which is about three-thirds full by the time he politely says, “See ya later.”

If you weren’t near the front row just 15 minutes later, you probably didn’t see Jessica Pratt take the stage because you couldn’t for the head of someone’s boyfriend who decided to stand directly in front of you. At this point the place is packed and stays that way for the rest of the show.

While Pratt’s set is certainly one you want to be there for, it’s one of those shows you can content yourself with just listening. Pratt is “the darling in a hidden shroud” from her opener “Wrong Hands,” both in text and performance. The minimal lighting amounts to the stage being washed in a dark green cloud of dry ice. In the middle of it is Pratt, plucking away at patterns “in my mind, in my mind.”

But that doesn’t mean she’s simply turning over recorded material for us. She’s joined by Cyrus Gengras, another musician quietly based in Los Angeles. On “Night Faces,” the clean sound from his electric guitar swells to bring out the warmth of Pratt’s intricate acoustic phrasing, which could otherwise just as easily fade into the knot of some emotive chord. It’s dream pop at the ground level, where the reverb is still cave deep and the melodies clear like emeralds. But you can’t deny the tenderness with which Pratt and Gengras hold every note. That’s where we are, through to the end of the set, in the palms of their hands. Listen and you’ll hear it, during the encore, in the very last song, “What I have in my hands is, it is worth a million in gold.”

PLAYLIST: Here Today’s Concerts

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The month of March will not only be treating us with some exciting concerts, but also Sonar Festival (March 13-14). We have updated our “Here Today Concerts” playlist with a few selected artists that you might want to spend a night listening to. Among them are Dean Blunt, Jessica Pratt, Yung (tonight with Total Heels), Ex Hex and Wounded Kings.

Yung + Total Heels (Stengade, 04.03.2015)

As the music scene centered around Mayhem is becoming more widely known, you might be fooled into thinking that it is the only place to go underground in Denmark. That is not the case, though, as Aarhus has it’s own very lively scene. Yung is one of the most promising bands that have emerged from there in the last few years. Tonight (March 4. 2015) they will be playing Stengade along with another great band: Total Heels. Didn’t make it to any of Iceage’s sold out shows at Jazzhouse last week? Well don’t worry, good times are waiting at Stengade. [Link to event.]

Ex Hex (Loppen, 05.03.2015)

According to The Guardian’s 5 star review of Ex Hex’s 2014 album, Rips, the band “sit somewhere near the middle of a Go-gos/Ramones/Sleater-Kinney Venn diagram, and join latterday power-pop aces like Warm Soda, the Love Triangle and Sheer Mag in making some of the most endlessly repeat-listenable should-be-hits of recent years.”

What else is there to say, sounds fun, right? [Link to event.]

Dean Blunt (Jazzhouse, 20.03.2015)

Dean Blunt, who plays Jazzhouse on the 20th of March, is an interesting new breed of experimental lo-fi R&B, dub and electronica. Last year he released the album Black Metal to great critical acclaim.

Dean Blunt is also one half of Hype Williams. [Link to event.]

Jessica Pratt (Stengade, 28.03.2015)

San Fransisco born singer-songwriter Jessica Pratt has just released her second album, On Your Own Love Again. Forget laptop wall-of-sound productions, Jessica Pratt made her album on an analogue 4-track recorder with little more than a guitar and her voice. As Pitchfork writes, it worked out really well: “Its warm, home-recorded atmosphere is more dramatic and distinctive than Jessica Pratt [her debut album]: finger-picked psychedelia, lucidly layered harmonies, hissy tape effects, an overcast haze. But Pratt’s songwriting is more cohesive and concise, her whispered secrets more alluring”. [Link to event.]

Wounded Kings (Loppen, 18.03.2015)

Life can not always be expressed in freak-folk and “repeat-listenable should-be-hits”. Sometimes you need a bit of doom metal and this is where The Wounded Kings enter the scene. Their latest album Consolamentum has received great praise among reviewers. If you sometimes find yourself nodding along to Black Sabbath, Wounded Kings are worth considering. [Link to event]

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