Calum Pratt-Essential Nature.

Categorised as FEATURES., MUSIC.

I first heard of Calum Pratt around two years ago through various voices in the Brighton and Horsham music scenes (yes, the latter really does exist). I’d heard great things about his songwriting ability and vocal dexterity, but to catch him performing live appeared somewhat difficult to say the least. I quickly stumbled across his MySpace profile and uncovered a few roughly recorded demos, and began to uncover the talent behind the hype.

As time went on I would often contact Calum and ask him about a future proper recording, something more solid and absolute. For the purpose they served the demos were fine. They clearly demonstrated his skill, but there was something more inside these songs and I, like many others, was desperate to hear this realised. A few months later I met Sam Hanlan, an 18-year old musical prodigy (No, seriously, the guy made a breaks beat out of slasher screams) when myself and Calum performed on his ‘Sofa Sessions’ project, a collection of YouTube videos of various songwriters. Calum explained to me that Sam would be his right-hand man in the recording of his album, and I was pleased. Then I heard our live recordings and I was excited.

Okay, background story over. Hopefully by now you understand why I want to tell you about this album and more importantly, why I want you to listen to it.

The collection begins with ‘Resolution’, a driving, brooding song reminiscent of Nick Drake’s later offerings. Devilish lyrics such as, “I’m more bitter than a traffic warden on speed/ and I’m coming for your brand new Beamer” combined with his smooth delivery create an opening track that sets the tone beautifully, while the new addition of pounding drums to the song’s chorus reinforce that this really is something worth sitting up for. ‘Altered State’, one of the first tracks I ever heard by Calum, then brings the mood back around to contemplative melancholy. As the name might suggest, the song reflects the feelings you can get when drunk, which beggars belief considering how composed the song sounds. My favourite vocal delivery is in this song during the chorus, with the piercing “whispers round, but I’m still invisible” sending shivers down my feet, let alone my spine. It was my favourite song to hear live and remains my favourite track on this collection.

The song draws to a close over a symphonic drone of guitars, violins and harmonium, pulsating and vibrating into a deafening silence. It’s moments like this that make these songs so much more than just a few tracks by an artist. The brilliance of this album transcends the music alone. The beginning of ‘Anger of Achilles’ features an unsettling recording of children playing (though not as unsettling as when Calum told me, “talk later mate, Sam and I are gonna go record some kids in a playground“), while the final track begins with unchained picked melodies over the hum of creaking and tape-hiss (yeh, hold on) and the sound of friends talking and laughing. The whole atmosphere of this album is perfect, and you’re never left thinking that something more could have been done.

‘Frames’, the closing track, demonstrates this attention to detail perfectly. Recorded on a basic SM57 microphone through a tape-deck (eh? see?), the intimate nature of this song stays with me long after listening, and I’ll find myself walking around singing the words over and over. The final lines resonate the feelings of anybody who has ever thrown off whatever shackles they used to bear in favour of just feeling free. That same uplifting feeling of vibrance and new life that opened the album returns in calmer tones.

I refuse to stay helpless in the cold. I want to fly, I want reach these heights. Shallow chains and more set frames. Optimism could do more to re-align my sights. No more pressure, more free space.”

Essential listening for fans of Nick Drake, Damien Rice, Jeff Buckley and John Martyn.

Calum Pratt’s “Essential Nature” is available right now from here on a ‘pay what you like’ basis, just like radiohead. Unlike radiohead, however, Calum does not have millions of pounds and record sales behind him meaning he doesn’t have to give a shit, so do the right thing.

Words Gregk Foley

Photo Theo Royston-Lee

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