TE Morris – Newfoundland

Posted: 21 May 2016 in Albums
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TE Morris – Newfoundland

Christopher Nosnibor

TE Morris, founder and front man of esteemed purveyors of post rock Her Name is Calla has enjoyed a lengthy detour as a solo artist over the last few years. He’s a man who’s overflowing with ideas and material, far more than one band could ever contain, and with the members of Calla strewn about the country, developing new material on top of rehearsing is a slow process. As such, the solo career, which has spawned a slew of albums and EPs, has been a very necessary outlet. When the creative juices are flowing, you just have to let them run. However, he’s announced that his focus from hereon in will be on the band alone, and that Newfoundland will be his last solo release.

Because Her Name is Calla is very much about collaboration and the organic development of material, with the individual members each contributing in various ways to the dynamic of the sound, Morris’ solo recordings have always stood apart from the band’s output. and while much of his solo material is sparse in its arrangement, often comprising only acoustic guitar and vocal, there is no sense that these are offcuts or outtakes of would-be, could-be Calla songs.

Having said that, Newfoundland, for the connotations of discovery, of new ground and of possibilities, and despite the implications of context, which carry a certain sense of closure as the ‘solo’ chapter of Morris’ career comes to an end, is the solo work which sounds and feels most like Her Name is Calla. And in doing so, it feels like Morris is returning home. Newfoundland is a work built on layered instrumentation, bringing texture and sonic depth to the songs.

The piano is prominent across the album’s thirteen tracks, and Morris’ haunting voice which often soars toward an otherworldly falsetto is a constant here, as ever, and fans of both Her Name is Calla and Morris’ previous solo work will be both unsurprised and no doubt relieved to learn that it’s a characteristically reflective, introspective and melancholic set of songs.

‘The Sea of Tranquillity’, a ten-minute epic, drifts through a succession of moods, the soft piano augmented by mournful strings as Morris emotes on being lost in space. It’s touching, moving and powerful in a restrained, refined way. ‘A Year in the Wilderness’ finds organ and a swell of strings add drama and a sweeping, cinematic feel to the song, which contrasts with the hushed intimacy of ‘How Far Would You Go to Disappear’ which immediately follows. ‘The Mountain’ again hints at the beauty and enormity of nature and at the same time the challenges of a personal, emotional mountain, and builds to a crescendo worthy of Her Name is Calla as he ascends toward its ragged peak – a triumph riven with an ultimate sense of failure, as he sings, defeated, ‘I let the woodlife crawl over me / And eat me from the outside and in’.

One of Morris’ distinct trademarks is his ability to pen lyrics which are simultaneously intensely personal, yet elliptical, conveying manifold shades of anguish, grief, turmoil, distress, reflection, and, very occasionally, joy. He does it all in a way which is subtle and elegant, and there’s a rare grace to his songs.

With its samples and distant electronic beat, ‘Trials’ marks something of a departure and shows Morris extending his sonic palette, a trajectory furthered on the yawning drone of ‘—‘ , the album’s third untiled track .The final track, the nine-minute ‘Lasting Words’ makes for a fitting sign-off, as he sings, relieved, elated but conflicted, ‘I don’t want to hear the silence / And I can’t wait to start again / Trying not to break away.’

In short – and as expected – it’s a beautiful record, and one that’s heavy with emotion. Such sorrow rarely sounded so magical.

 

 

TE Morris

Newfoundland Online at Olynka Records

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