Her Name Is Calla
Animal Choir


4.5
superb

Review

by Mathias USER (19 Reviews)
July 16th, 2019 | 21 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

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


Animal Choir 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.



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user ratings (43)
Chart.
4
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
dmathias52
July 16th 2019


726 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Put at least twice as much time into reviewing this as any other album I've reviewed. A beautiful behemoth, can't recommend it enough. Thanks to Artuma for nominating it in the album review thread!

Swan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkQa4lbihZk

Any feedback is much appreciated!

Digging: Tyler Childers - Country Squire

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 16th 2019


9832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You end up repeating yourself quite a bit here, which I'm assuming is a result of absolutely loving this album. I respect that, but there are times were words/sentences/etc. could be diversified so the review doesn't become monotonous.



That being said, it is still a good read and a well-done piece for this goliath. Personally felt like it dragged after the opening tracks set such a high standard, but you're close to convincing me to try it again.

Digging: The Offering - Home

bloc
July 16th 2019


56971 Comments


Put a cape on her and now she's super calla

Digging: Ultravox - Vienna

dmathias52
July 16th 2019


726 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@MarsKid Repetition was definitely something I was worried about, especially since there's so much I wanted to touch on (second and fourth paragraph are particularly guilty, I think). I also have a bad habit of finding an adjective or two I like and using them relentlessly. I'll try to read through it and fix some of that up tonight!

And those opening tracks really are something else!

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 16th 2019


9832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

For sure, the beginning of this album is super strong, and it ends on a high note. The middle of this record is where I encounter problems.

dmathias52
July 16th 2019


726 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Made a few small edits that hopefully help with the repetition, gonna go a little more in depth later tonight.

And I agree that the middle isn't quite as strong, or at least not quite as memorable. The run where there are three instrumentals across six songs doesn't necessarily disrupt the flow, but it doesn't help.

Demon of the Fall
July 17th 2019


11908 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm going to check this for old time's sake, stayed with these guys once (many moons ago) and their music was always decent, if not entirely my cup of tea - although I certainly have the potential to like this sort of thing (based on the review) and I'm not sure how much they've changed over the years.



Nice review btw.

Digging: Fever Ray - Live At Troxy

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 17th 2019


9832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Your taste eludes me Demon, so I dunno how you'll feel about this. Which is my not-so-fancy way of saying "Try it!"

Demon of the Fall
July 17th 2019


11908 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

My taste even alludes me sometimes, so that's understandable, haha.



Interestingly the one I've heard has by far the lowest average here, so perhaps they just got better. I still managed to give 'The Heritage' a 3/5.

Pikazilla
July 17th 2019


2219 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Never heard of these guys before, but this shit sounds epic as fuck so far.

dmathias52
July 17th 2019


726 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is actually the first I’ve heard from them, so I’m not gonna be much help on whether old fans will enjoy this. From what I’ve read, their old stuff is much softer. Definitely on my “to check” list

And I’d def say “epic as fuck” is as good a description as any!

tectactoe
July 18th 2019


896 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Currently on "A Modern Vesper" and really digging this so far.

Digging: The Appleseed Cast - The Fleeting Light of Impermanence

DoofDoof
July 20th 2019


4828 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Your name is what? Cilla? No? Salla? Say it one more time.



Calla? That’s it? Calla.



That’s a, uh, pretty name

DoofDoof
July 20th 2019


4828 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This is pleasant but a bit snoozy



This is one of those albums 70% of it I’d rate 2.5/5, 20% a 4/5, and 10% a 4.5/5



Vanguard was the only song I found consistently really good the whole way through so far.



The album is never bad though

hogan900
July 21st 2019


3044 Comments


Very excited to hear this

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 21st 2019


9832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's for sure an enjoyable album but it's difficult to ignore the parts where it seems to meander about without much purpose. I love an album that revels in a long duration, but making a lengthy effort always proves more difficult than a shorter one. Here, some trimming would have benefited this immensely I believe.

dmathias52
July 21st 2019


726 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I think I agree with that point in general @Marskid. I think trimming would help, especially for those who don’t become completely enamored with the sound like I did. I think a few songs have endings that probably repeat themselves one or two times too many and unless you completely love the sound, that won’t do any favors for people’s opinions. But if you love the sound, it just gives you even more to love

Demon of the Fall
July 21st 2019


11908 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The Heritage definitely had some meandering going on, still going to check this. I’m intrigued.

Demon of the Fall
July 26th 2019


11908 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

What happened to this band, this is on another level compared to the debut. Nice.

Not heard the rest.

Asura14
July 31st 2019


254 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I really want to like this more, the strong songs are really strong but the slower parts often become a snooze fest. Not only is the album inconsistent in this way but the songs themselves seem to have the same issue.

Either way, I do enjoy the album and there's some extra sympathy for knowing this is their last one

Digging: Tomb Mold - Planetary Clairvoyance



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