Posts Tagged ‘Crescendo’

PNL Records – PNL040 – 20th April 2018

Extra Large Unit is an appropriate collective moniker: More Fun Please! is a live recording of an expanded iteration of Paal Nilssen-Love’s Large Unit ensemble, and features some twenty-seven musicians, in a line-up which features three grand pianos. Yes, three grand pianos. Excessive? Hey, if you’re going to go large, why not go uber-maxi, all-out massive?

The accompanying blurb explains that ‘The challenge of composing for so many musicians, while also maintaining the qualities and identity he had established with Large Unit, pushed Nilssen-Love to new creative levels. This was a monumental task…’ And More Fun, Please! is a monumental album. The question is, how much fun can you handle?

In his liner notes for the album Nilssen-Love writes, ‘When writing music, I search for extremes, pushing boundaries: physical, dynamic, instrumental limitations, if any, how fast and how slow can one play, how loud and how quiet. I search for unusual ways of thinking. I want to give the musicians trust and have them take initiative and to feel the responsibility of what it is to be an individual player in a group context’.

More Fun Please! is a thirty-minute aural rollercoaster, half an hour of highs and lows. At times, it sounds like a classic cartoon soundtrack, parping brass and sudden bursts of percussion; at others, it’s brimming with oriental exploration and eastern promise, and at others still, it’s utter bloody chaos, discord and cacophonous mayhem. In between, there are passages of trilling, tooting, droning and scraping, brought to abrupt halts by immense orchestral strikes – and I mean immense, earth-shaking, and borderline galactic in scale – and plinking, bibbling xylophone breaks.

The brass is beyond wild. Words simply aren’t enough.

The whole thing is an orchestral frenzy, a riotous ruckus of everything all at once, with sustained crescendos that seem to last forever.

It’s a lot of fun… but half an hour is probably about as much of this kind of fun as anyone can handle.

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Future Void Records – 25th August 2017

James Wells

The pedant in me – and he’s a dominant, sarcastic brawling bastard – asks if two tracks with a combined running time of just over eight minutes really constitutes an EP. The same pedant also wonders if post-rock and post-hardcore can really sit together as a hybrid genre.

The debut release by Brighton’s Chalk Hands makes him shut the fuck up. These two cuts – ‘Burrows’ and ‘Arms’ – are both brutal and beautiful in equal measure. The guitars shift between delicate chiming notes and driving power chords, the vocals a nihilistic snarl of rage amidst the tempest.

According to the band’s bio, they’ve been compared to Pianos Become The Teeth, Caspian, and Envy. Because I’m old and because it’s impossible to know every inch of every microgenre or even every genre, I don’t know any of these bands, but instead draw from a sphere of reference that includes Profane and Andsoiwatchyoufromafar, and comparisons to both are favourable in the case of Chalk Hands. However, they also reference MONO and Russian Circles, and yes, they hold up nicely against them too.

On ‘Burrows’ in particular, Chalk Hands build some awesome crescendos from delicate, rippling washes of clean, chorused guitars, presenting an impressive dynamic and emotional range.

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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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