Her Name Is Calla - The Quiet Lamb

The scope that the band display here is by equal measures awe-inspiring and terrifying.

Everything about Her Name Is Calla spells out their ambitious nature. They are a truly talented bunch of musicians whose style could be called as eccentric as it is beguiling. They are completely comfortable with multi-part epics, too: of ‘The Quiet Lamb”s running time, a whopping 75 minutes, two tracks account for just about half of the entire record.

Consider, too, the effort they have put into this release. Their packaging ideas are elaborate; the record was worked on extensively and planned for years; and a year was spent on simply producing, mixing and mastering it. Most other bands wouldn’t even dare to put this much time into their debut album.

Yes, we said debut album. Depending on who you ask in the band, this is either Calla’s second album (following on from ‘The Heritage’, which everyone else seems to refer to as an EP - with us so far?), or their first. We’re going to go with the second option, as this record seems a much more comprehensive listen than ‘The Heritage’ ever was.

Comprehensive, and exhausting. To put it plainly, ‘The Quiet Lamb’ is a stunning work, but it is a demanding listen, quite often wilfully obtuse and difficult. It opens with five minutes of ghostly piano that seems to lack any discernible melody; this is ‘Moss Giant’. It could be said to meander if it didn’t do such a great job of opening the record, immediately highlighting the sense of tension that runs through it.

Elements of slowcore can be heard in ‘A Blood Promise’ and ‘Pour More Oil’, tracks that unfold at an unhurried pace. They may seem rather quiet and uninteresting on first listen, but if you’re expecting instant results with any Her Name Is Calla material, kindly move along; nothing to see here. As they say themselves, they don’t take shortcuts.

Speaking of which, the album centrepiece is all of seventeen minutes long. ‘Condor and River’ builds from sparse beginnings into a combination of ominous guitars and soft drums, before this idea falls away as (relatively) quickly as it took hold. Then the listener is treated to what is arguably the most powerful part of the entire album. A steady crescendo heralds the full-force entry of the guitars and an all-too-brief explosion of noise. Soon, all is silent again as the song settles into its piano-led second movement, moving from unrestrained power to a fragility that is almost tangible.

‘Condor and River’ has been looked upon as the group’s crowning achievement, and it’s not difficult to see why. The album may seem to taper off after this, but it’s only because the second half requires even more perseverance. Ironically, it contains the most accessible song on the record, ‘Thief’. The album resumes its slow-burning course, taking the listener through ‘Long Grass’ and the brittle ‘Homecoming’, and finally to the record’s second interlude (which is in reality more similar to a coda for ‘Thief’), which brings us to the finale: a twenty-minute work in three movements, ‘The Union’.

Of its three parts, ‘Recidivist’ stands out the most, eight minutes of bracing feedback and jarring, stabbing chords in which the feeling of tension resurfaces again, creating the sense that the record is building up to a powerful finale. And it does: while on one side of ‘Recidivist’ we have ‘I Worship A Golden Sun’, with its surpisingly groovy feel, on the other we have the unadulterated, Wild West-influenced chaos of ‘Into the West’. Driving drums and some seriously complicated bass make themselves heard as ‘The Quiet Lamb’ - finally - sprints for the finish line.

The scope that the band display here is by equal measures awe-inspiring and terrifying. The album is an uncompromising listen from start to finish. It takes real willpower to even get through it, but its brilliance is revealed through repeated listens. It’s rare that an album requires this much effort - but then again it’s hard to think of one that’s quite as rewarding as this one is, certainly one released this year. Her Name Is Calla’s first full-length statement has arrived, and it is extraordinary.

Tags: Her Name is Calla, Reviews, Album Reviews

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