Posts Tagged ‘Her Name is Calla’

24th August 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Although he’s released two solo albums under the guise of Wiekie, Adam Weikert is perhaps best known as the drummer of Her Name is Calla. This first release under his own name marks something of a departure, and given its inspiration and evolution, it’s perhaps not unreasonable to say that Weikert’s decision to release an album as ‘himself’ represents a stripping away of the layers of artistry to reveal a work which is more directly personal.

The blurbage contextualises the release as follows: ‘Born years ago as response to cope with a traumatic event of his youth, and revived years later after ill health forced Adam to temporarily stop singing – USIDOH showcases the scattered fragments of poems alongside happenstantial Neoclassically themed works, creating a unique and personal experience.’

Attempts to unravel the meaning of the album’s title, which I take to be more of an initialism than an acronym, during the writing of this review bore little fruit of use. The poems – which are contained in an 80-pagebook which accompany the physical release – are considerably more instructive as to the true meaning of the project. That isn’t to say they’re in alignment with the album’s eleven (instrumental) tracks, because the poems – plural – essentially blur into a single, drifting longform work which has its own shape and tempo, as well as illustrations which augment rather than impinge on the experience. That is to say, the two elements of the project are complimentary rather than directly parallel. Nevertheless, the poems are absolutely integral to the overall experience, rendering USIDOH more of a multimedia work than simply a musical piece.

The words are weighty and the presentation is not only highly visual but intrinsic to the execution. Just as the music on USIDOH draws on aspects of the postmodern and the avant-garde within its broadly neoclassical framework – Wiekert conjures a vast array of atmospheres and emotions through the use of abstraction and semi-ambient field recordings and found snippets in conjunction with mewling saw, sweeping strings, brooding piano and nagging banjo – so the poems pull on high modernism, postmodernism and concrete poetry to further accentuate the lines, disparate and abstract yet unified by virtue of emanating from the same mind, over a period spanning the six years from 2005 to 2011.

‘Die Puppe’ weaves in and out of experimental atmospherics, before ‘Vardøhus Festning’ forges an imposing, imperious mood. ‘Sloth’ is a simply beautiful piano composition, which rolls and drifts mellifluously. There’s almost a playfulness about ‘A Constant Repose’, which first aired via YouTube aired a couple of months ago, the nimble piano work affecting a lightness of mood. But beneath it lies a subtle undercurrent of nostalgic melancholy. And if anything, it’s this emotional layering and the depth of nuance and detail which makes USIDOH such an appealing and compelling work, musically.

As a complete package, there’s a lot to unravel. USIDOH is very much art: Wiekert has poured everything into this, and it shows. There are times when it’s not easy to penetrate, but that in itself is reason to set aside some time to explore a work that multifaceted, deep and resonant, and achieves this without slipping into pretentiousness. There’s no question that USIDOH is ambitious, but Wiekert succeeds in delivering something which conveys the vision.

USIDOH

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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.

 

 

HNIC_Live BSC

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s a cold, wet, February night in York. The wind is howling and the air is bitter. It’s not much warmer in The Crescent, despite a respectable turnout for this incredibly good value five-band extravaganza hosted by Leeds promoters and label Come Play With Me (and while I’ve never asked or otherwise bothered to research, I’ve always assumed the name is taken from the 1992 Single by Leeds indie stalwarts The Wedding Present, rather than the 1977 sex-comedy movie).

Perhaps it’s because they play so frequently in and around York that I often pass up on seeing Bull play. As a consequence, I tend to forget just how good they are, and often feel as if I’m, discovering them anew when I do see them. Their breezy US alternative sound, which hints at Dinosaur Jr and Pavement is laced with a distinctly Northern attitude, and they’ve got a real knack for a nifty pop song. They make for an uplifting start to proceedings.

The ubiquitous and multi-talented local stalwart Danny Barton features among the lineup of three-piece Sewage Farm, in capacity of bassist. Their post-grunge style is a sort of hybrid of US alt rock and 60s pop: more New York than Old York. With nods to Sonic Youth, but equally, Weezer, they’re good fun and make a dense noise for just three people.

Looking around the venue, I observe a number of long coats and above-the-ankle trousers. It’s starting to look like 1984, while on stage it sounds like it’s 1994. Time is warping, history is bending in on itself. Clearly, I need more beer. While I’m at the bar, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Slowdive pour from the PA, setting the tone nicely for the next act.

While they’re setting up, I chat briefly to Adam Weikert, drummer with Her Name is Calla. I waffle a load of bollocks, and as he heads off to get warm and grab a beverage, I realise just how unbelievably fucking tired I am. Maybe if I drink enough beer I’ll perk up, or otherwise fall asleep at the table I’m sitting at to make notes between bands. Perhaps I’ll simply care less, and also develop a much-needed beer-coat.

Team Picture describe themselves as ‘One part post-punk, two parts fuzz’, and having been impressed by their single cut released by CPWM the night before, I was keen to check them live. Biographical details about the Leeds act is scant, and despite the positioning of old-school cathode ray tube television sets around the stage and the female singer being one of the hyper-retro bods I’d clocked, giving an air of hypermodernism of a vintage circa 1979, they’re really not an image band. They are, however, an exceptionally strong live act. The six-piece forge a layered sound that oozes tension: the monotone dual vocals and fractal guitars trickle brittle over strolling basslines and taut drums. The songs are magnificently composed and executed. Atmospheric segments blow out into expansive passages propelled by motoric rhythms. I’m totally sold: it’s a cert that this is going to be a band who are on an upward trajectory and 2017 could be a big year for them.

Team Picture

Team Picture

I’m still freezing my tits off, tired, and feeling disconnected and out of sorts, so I buy a third beer: surely an Old Peculier will unthaw my toes at least. The barmaid throws a friendly smile as she hands me my change. Inexplicably, I feel hopeless and empty, and now, I’m without a seat, as the girl who stood right at my elbow during Team Picture’s set, despite the venue being only a third full is now sitting with her mate at the table I was at previously. She looks vaguely familiar, but I’m not about to embarrass myself by attempting conversation. Perhaps it’s the chilly post-punk vibes lingering in the air spurring my existentialism; perhaps not. Regardless, I don’t go to gigs to socialise.

It’s a relief when Halo Blind begin their set. Another York band featuring another ubiquitous face on bass, this time in the form of former Seahorse Stuart Fletcher (currently rocking a look that says he wants to be Tom Hardy), they’re classic exemplars of post-millennium neo-prog, and they’re seriously good at it. Having just released their second album, Occupying Forces, they showcase an evolving, expansive sound. Layered, dynamic, melodic and harmony-soaked songs, rich in atmosphere and calling to mind the likes of Oceansize and Anathema, define their set. They explore dynamics fearlessly, building some sustained crescendos and executing them with admirable precision. During ‘Downpour’, I find myself drawing parallels with ‘Pictures of a Bleeding Boy’ by The God Machine. But if a band’s worst crime is betraying echoes of The God Machine, then you know they’re a band worth hearing.

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Halo Blind

Her Name is Calla: another tour, another lineup. Sophie Green is out (a shame, as she’s an awesome presence), making way for a return for Anja Madhvani (which is cool, because she’s a superb player). And that bearded guy at the back, manning a bank of electronics and hoisting a trombone: is that really departed fonder Thom Corah? Yes, yes it is, and they open up a tempestuous set with the rarely-aired single-only track ‘A Moment of Clarity’. I may be in a minority, but it’s one of my favourite Her Name is Calla songs, and as Tom Morris pushes his voice to the limit with the cry of ‘the crunch / is the sound / of a human spirit breaking’ as the band erupt around him, it’s a powerful and emotive moment.

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Her Name is Calla

The band play a varied set with intensity and vigour. Quiet and melancholy, ‘Pour More Oil’ is delicate and moving; ‘Meridian Arc’ brings an insistent throb, vlume and tension in spades. Tiernan Welsh’s bass coms to the fore and his complete immersion in the songs is compelling.

They close the set with ‘New England’. I stopped taking notes, beyond scribbling ‘fucking yes’ in a barely decipherable scrawl. One of the highlights of The Heritage¸ this is precisely the kind of slow-building, explosive epic that made the band their name, and to see them thrash wildly, with Tom gnawing his guitar strings with his teeth amidst a tumult of ever-swelling noise, is an experience that’s something special. There is no encore: there doesn’t need to be. There is nowhere to go from here: an awesome finale to an awesome night.

Long Branch Records and Mystic – 6th May 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Instrumental four-piece Tides From Nebula are an instrumental 4-piece fail from Poland. Some of you may already know that, especially if you’re reading this in Poland, given that I’m reliably informed that they’re Poland’s most popular post-rock band. But then, how big is post-rock in Poland? Big enough, I guess: it’s something that seems more popular in mainland Europe and beyond than domestically here in the UK, and home-grown post-rock acts like Her Name is Calla seem to have a bigger fanbase beyond the British Isles than at home. It’s not just about catchment or population: the UK seems, in the main, to be depressingly mainstream and conservative in its tastes. Anything remotely alternative is niche, and there’s little to no crossover between mainstream and alternative markets. Elsewhere, music fans seem altogether more accommodating and diverse, and the levels of enthusiasm shown to bands is significantly greater beyond the confines of our island shores too. I daresay that Tides of Nebula have felt the cultural differences during their extensive touring: since their inception, they’ve played over 500 shows globally, and Safehaven is their fourth album.

It is, without doubt, a quintessential post-rock album. The guitars chime and build their way, inexorably, to surging, euphoric crescendos that soar and sustain. Yet there’s an understated power evident here: there are some big chords, and the heavy strikes hang in the air with a long afterburn.

But then, ‘The Lifter’ marks a change of instrumentation and a change of style, the throbbing synths and more mechanised sound beneath the interweaving guitars presenting a sound more electronically focused, hinting more at Depeche Mode than the well-trodden post-rock conventions. And gradually, the album finds Tides from Nebula incorporate an increasing range of electronic instrumentation, and while as I say, it’ a quintessential post-rock album, it’s also an album that does a whole lot more and does so in a way that’s interesting and holds the attention instead of becoming bogged down in indulgent-wankery.

As the album’s cover art – a shot of the Cayan tower in Dubai or a manipuation thereof? – suggests, the album’s architecture is daring, and comes with a big twist. And as Safehaven demonstrates, it’s their ability to move beyond the conventions of straight, guitar-based post-rock – and to do so without it sounding forced or like a desperate push to step out of a well-worn post-rock rut – that really goes in the band’s favour. In fact, while the latest album by Explosions in the Sky sees them trying and failing to achieve precisely the same, Tides of Nebula succeed, striding confidently into expansive new territories. And in that context, it’s reasonable to call Safehaven a triumph.

Tides - Safe

 

Tides From Nebula Online

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