Her Name is Calla – Live at Bishop Street Church

Posted: 12 May 2017 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Self-released – 19th May 2017 – DL/CD (limited to 100 numbered/signed)

Christopher Nosnibor

Having witnessed the evolution of Her Name is Calla since the time of the first release of ‘Condor and River’ and their tour with iLiKETRAiNS (as they were styled back then), and having seen them play live at least a dozen times over the last decade, this release comes in many ways as a pleasing reminder of why they’re still a band worthy of attention and time.

Initially – and perhaps still – out of necessity, Her Name is Calla pursued a DIY ethos, recoding their ambitiously vast music at home and in tiny, cramped spaces and self-releasing in limited, hand-made, hand-numbered runs. And having worked with labels and achieved an international following, the fact they’re keeping things in-house means they’re a band that fans can still cherish and feel as if they’re ‘theirs’. And so it may be that they’ve settled into a certain cult position as they continue to plough their own unique furrow, but the offer of a limited edition of 100 signed CD copies of this live album reflects the band’s continued commitment to their ethics, their fans, and, above all, their music, which they continue to release with or without label backing.

Live at Bishop Street Church – recorded at Leicester’s Handmade Festival this year – captures the sound of a band with an ever-shifting lineup in their current incarnation, which sees them reunited with founder member and multi-instrumentalist Thom Corah, whose bras work proved to be a distinctive feature of their early work: his trombone action on tracks like ‘A Sleeper’ (by far the most buoyant song in their repertoire) and ‘Navigator’ certainly adds to the range of the overall sound, and changes the dynamics of some of the songs considerably.

Although they’ve changed the running order of the tracks, Live at Bishop Street Church is very much an honest account of the band’s live set.

While Her Name is Calla in 2017 are a lot more geared toward quiet, achingly mournful acoustic songs than epic, angst-dripping slow-burners that build to ear-bursting crescendos, there are still no shortage of songs which hit those emotional and sonic peaks to be found scattered throughout their post-Heritage recordings and which feature in their live sets.

The nine-minute ‘The Navigator’ is one of the clear standouts, not least of all because it encapsulates Her Name is Calla in their completeness: a hushed intro, a deliberately-paced build and a rip-roaring crescendo built on a tempest of brass, strings and guitar, with rolling drums rumbling like thunder toward the climax. Then again, the thirteen-minute ‘Dreamlands’ begins with a quiet, haunting segment where Tom Morris’ vocal soars, fragile and pained, over an acoustic guitar, before – three-minutes or so in – the build begins with sonorous brass burring low-end over crashing cymbals of increasing intensity and wordless vocals.

The write-up which accompany the release explain that “‘Meridian Arc’ and ‘Pour More Oil’ are presented here as ‘additional’ tracks as the multitrack failed during the recording of those songs. These were picked up solely by a handheld stereo audio recorder.” The audio quality is certainly less than the rest of the album, but the inclusion of the two tracks in integral to the release. While a shade muffled and heavily reverby, they do, nevertheless, capture the energy of the performance, and both tracks are quite integral to the set. The former is a work of thunderous dynamics and ragged emotional outpouring, while the latter, which closes the album, has become one of the band’s signature pieces, a haunting, spiritual offering which is incredibly moving in any context. Here, stretched out to almost ten minutes, it almost redefines the term ‘haunting epic’.

As a band whose catalogue is littered with incidental and peripheral releases, Live at Bishop Street Church adds to the sprawling clutter which renders them one of those acts which are a completist’s nightmare. But this is also a well-realised document of the latest phase of a band in constant transition. And while the older material is largely overlooked, it does highlight the quality of their later work, as well as evidence the strength of their current live form.

 

 

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