After the widely positive reception to debut full length “The Quiet Lamb” last year (it placed number 6 in my top 50), you would not have begrudged the band some time to rest on their laurels and enjoy touring with a sackful of well rehearsed and well received tunes from a now decent sized back catalogue. Indeed I’ve become used to waiting at least twelve months between releases from most artists. But not Her Name Is Calla, barely six months on we have “Maw”, a three track, double A-side (that name seems so anachronistic these days!) of new material on Denovali records.
A lot has been made of the fact that the first track, the title track, clocks in at ‘just’ three and a half minutes in contrast to the band’s reputation for longer more epic pieces. Even though it is one of the shortest tracks in the band’s oeuvre, it was not its brevity that surprised me the most on first listen, it was its downright rawkness! Anyone that has listened to much of Calla’s material knows that they can rock out with the best of them but usually as part of a larger whole. “Maw” is no less than a proper balls-out rock record, it captures a real ‘live’ sound, raw and visceral. Shying away from big production values it retains the feel of the band as they are on stage, if there were any justice in the world it would be heard on national radio playlists all round the country (ok, maybe not radio 1!)
Second track “The Beat That My Heart Skipped” reigns all that bluster from the previous track back in to produce a delicate ballad that is dominated by Tom’s doleful voice and brushed drums. The vocal harmonies between Tom and (I presume) violinist Sophie on the track add an element that I don’t recall hearing on a Calla track before. This track is also just over three and a half minutes long acting almost like a mirror reflection of the preceding track.
Final track “Dreamlands” finds us back in more familiar Calla territory with the track stretching to nearly twelve minutes. The start of the track almost seems like a continuation of TBTMHS but at the three minute mark the sound breaks down, decaying into a lowing sound similar to the start of Quiet Lamb opener “Moss Giant”. Vocal swells lead to another breakdown of distorted feedback dwindling to sound like an untuned radio. At this point the track could easily fade away to nothing, but then in the background a gentle acoustic guitar melody gradually comes to the fore bringing the almost falsetto vocals back in. Tom’s voice really seems to be maturing into a strong force nowadays, the first time I heard him attempting the higher octaves, I always felt he struggled a bit, on the album track “Homecoming” it always feels like it’s not quite up to the job but here, combined with the aforementioned harmonies, it really works. I’ve listened to this track a few times now and it never seems to feel like it’s twelve minutes long, it washes the listener along like you’re floating down a stream and then it starts to fade away and you’re left beached, thinking; “that felt like it was over a bit soon, can we go again?”
“Maw” is available to listen to and purchase on their bandcamp site, or via the widget below, I am of course urging you to BUY it, more than once preferably (get some as gifts for those you love!) as, like I said in my review of their Leeds gig, more people need to appreciate this wonderful bunch of musicians, plus they’re really nice people who could do with a new van!