Review Summary: A brilliant meshing of indie and post-rock that rolls along relentlessly.
For being one of the most simple and beautiful tracks on Animal Choir
, “Kaleidoscoping” is also one of the most surprising. Starting off with a basic piano line and some reverb in the background, it seems to be a classic post-rock song that will continue to build. Tom Morris’s vocals come in and paint a beautiful ballad and that beautiful ballad continues on for six minutes. There is a slight build to avoid monotony, with background embellishes and strings that create an astral sound behind Morris’s soft falsetto. However, as the song builds, it never explodes. It is undoubtedly otherwordly and creates a sense of awe, but is wonderfully experimental in its lack of experimentation. This is a song that sounds like it should be a beautiful textbook closer of an emotional album, but on Animal Choir
, it appears as track three after a rollicking opening duo. “Kaleidoscoping” is a song that shows that Animal Choir
is going to be an album that defies expectations in a wonderfully beautiful way.
While Kaleidoscoping is a slow and sweeping song, the opening duo of “Swan” and “The Dead Rift”, clearly show what Her Name is Calla is going to offer with Animal Choir
. On the surface it appears to be alternative rock that gives so much more, from pounding drums, electronic influences, orchestral effects, and essentially anything else you could hope for from a post-rock album are found in full across the opening ten and-a-half minutes. Paired with astonishing vocals that show a sense of urgency mixed with beauty (the range of Morris is something to be admired), the songs manage to combine the catchiness and accessibility of alternative rock and seamlessly add in elements of post-rock that perfectly layer themselves in. This opening duo is wildly experimental, while also being undeniably accessible.
Following the opening three tracks, Animal Choir
is an album that constantly breaks free of convention in an entirely logical sense. On the surface, much of their sound wouldn’t be out of place in an indie rock record (there are especially strong glimpses of The Dark, Dark Bright
), but then these indie rock songs are suddenly upped to be eight-minutes long. Of Animal Choir’s
fifteen tracks, only five fall under five minutes, and four of those are short, largely instrumental tracks. But rarely does a song overstay its welcome. Many of them do a brilliant job of building and building to keep the listener engaged, such as “A Moment of Clarity” which erupts into an crunching mesh of driving guitars, pounding drums, and a horn section that slides in seamlessly, or “Robert and Gerda”, a near nine-minute track that has one of the most stunning vocal performances across the genre. Her Name is Calla have essentially mastered the art of the slow build, but never in a way that becomes repetitive, mainly due to tracks like the aforementioned “Kaleidoscoping”, which, for the most part, break free from the trope.
While also hitting the tropes well, Her Name is Calla also offer enough experimentation that makes it slightly more difficult to categorize them into a single genre. “A Modern Vesper” has heavy electronic influence with a booming bass synth, “Frontier” has a largely folk acoustic guitar line going throughout, even as the song ebbs and flows between chaos and calm. It hits all of the expectations that are expected of a post-rock album and combines it with levels of indie- and alternative-rock, creating a sound that is not necessarily unique, but is definitely their own. There isn’t a song that isn’t layered perfectly with levels of sound, meaning that it will take multiple listens to catch even half of those listens. It’s also important to note that this is also an album that rocks
. Many songs pound and drive along without relent, often with pulsating guitar riffs and lyrics that are often belted out as often as they gently crooned. Their is a perfect balance of dynamic interplay on a track-by-track basis.x
The lyrics also add to the ethereal ambiance that the entire album creates. Much of it clearly seems to be apocalyptic, but whether that apocalypse is occurring in our world or one clear off isn't necessarily clear. “Swan” and “The Dead Rift” start the album off with images of destruction and religion, while “A Moment of Clarity” has the repeated mantra of And that sound is the crunch of the human spirit breaking
. Many of the songs seem to be directed towards a lover of some sort, but almost every time the lover is mentioned, there are concerns for their safety. It creates both a romantic an ominous feeling across the seventy-eight minute runtime. Nearly any passage could be handpicked from the album and sound absolutely beautiful, such as the opening lines from “To the Other”:
Back at the river of red
Clothes upon the banks
That bird always over my head
If only you’d gone home
I let the swarm swallow me whole
Murmurate across the wide open sky
And spread me hair by hair
ends with the duo of “Bloodline” and “In Thixs Patterned Room”. Bloodline is eight-minutes long, but also maybe the most straightforward song on the album. Guitars and drums crash behind an impassioned repeated cry of “I don’t want to be a part of this”. The song builds into waves of riffs before fading out and eventually turning into closing track “In This Patterned Room” A short and soft acoustic affair, it is also likely the last song to be heard from Her Name is Calla, as the band have announced that this is their last album. After an epic runtime and countless breathtaking moments, they choose to not go out with a bang, but a beautiful whimper.