Maybe Leicester is pushing the boundaries of Birmingham Live a fair bit, or at least one of the guys on the door seemed to think so. But if ignoring regional boundaries is what it takes to review Her Name Is Calla then it is well worth it!
Loved by many, including a few music journalists, Her Name Is Calla continue to confound the pundits who are eager to just push the next big thing whist ignoring talent and innovation. In terms of their broad style they are past masters of the slow start and atmospheric build up, with songs often culminating in total mayhem.
In the past this has tempted some commentators to try to pigeon-hole them as being like an early Arcade Fire and because of that labelling them as passÃ©. This is lazy; in reality their style is hard to pin down and while there are musical parallels with quite a few bands they are not really like anyone else. If anything this may be due to the sheer number of people involved in the project.
Tonight the five core band members were augmented to seven. This caused a few issues as the Firebug stage is little more than a postage stamp and poorly lit. By the time that the band and numerous instruments were in place there was so little room that cellist David Dhonau spent the whole of the set sitting in the audience at the front of the stage, and in the dark!
In spite of trying to get there early we missed Simon Thomas’ Lahars project; either that or he didn’t play. This was a shame as like Peter Wyeth whose use of loops and effects, and anything else to hand, are designed to create a complete sound-scape he would have underpinned the whole ambient experience.
The under-card was completed by worriedaboutsatan; the Leeds duo taking the ambient theme into techno territory. The whole effect should have been the building of an atmosphere culminating in the appearance of Her Name Is Calla but the nature of the venue didn’t really allow any flow in the proceedings.
The Firebug is basically an upstairs room with a stage at one end and a bar at the other. The bar is near enough to the stage for the usual hubbub to interfere and the entrance to the venue is next to the stage so there was a steady stream of smokers and people looking for the facilities moving back and forward throughout which seemed distracting for the performers and those in the audience who just wanted to listen.
In spite of this and accompanied by the most impressive earth hum I have heard in a long time Her Name Is Calla opened with A Blood Promise and Pour More Oil, two songs released in live demo form on the A Blood Promise EP last year and destined to be on the new album The Quiet Lamb which is due to see the light of day in June of this year. Tom Morris’ vocal ranged from calm and soulful to manic and desperate as the odd technical hitch with the on-stage sound caused a few difficulties.
Condor and River, is my favourite song to date by this band and it was the highlight of the set. It epitomises what the band are about, The combination of flute, violin, cello, guitar, bass trombone, keyboards and drums ought to be a recipe for chaos but the music just shines through.
The band released their recent single Long Grass in a wooden box. As songs go it is somewhat minimalist and tonight it became even more so being a truly acoustic rendition with Tom asking for the PA monitors and amps to be turned off so that those at the back had to strain to hear. The effect was amazing and you don’t get many post-rock tunes played on a banjo these days either!
Thief, with its shades of Radiohead, led into the the three- parter The Union ending with the thunderous Into The West. There was no encore – just a question if they had time for any more, which they did. New England is practically their signature tune so it was no surprise that this proved to be the extra song.
It was a great gig in a somewhat disorganised venue. If this was anything to go by we’ll be straying off territory on a regular basis!
A Blood Promise
Pour More Oil
Condor and River
Reviewer – Ian Gelling
Photographer – Steph Colledge