Album Reviews

Her Name Is Calla – Navigator

(Function) UK release date: 5 May 2014

Her Name Is Calla - Navigator It’s been four years since their last album, and in that time the band has undergone some fairly tricky times. They’ve weathered the storm though, and Her Name Is Calla return with an album that might just be their most accessible. Navigator was pieced together by Tom Morris (guitar and vocals) and Adam Weikert (drums/keyboards) sending each other demos and shaping the songs over time. It’s a creation process not dissimilar to that used by The Postal Service. This then is an album built not from explosive jam sessions, but with the slow, considered determination of the master craftsman.

The central themes of the Navigator revolve around the failure of life to live up to the promise experienced in the flush of youth. As might be expected, it’s a concentrated look at life, love and the depression that goes hand in hand with all of those things. Yet, somehow, Navigator is an album shot through with an undercurrent of promise and hope. Yes, the band might be older, and life didn’t turn out the way they expected, but all the challenges and trials have fed into their experience to make something truly epic. Despite it all, they found a way to make it work.

The band have been pegged with the post-rock tag for sometime now, but Navigator finds them much less easy to pigeonhole than that descriptor suggests. Certainly the scope of the music and ambition of the album lends itself to that definition, but there are elements of so many genres scattered across these songs that it is just not possible to tie the band down. For example, the short incidental breaks of Whale Fall: A Journal, It’s Called ‘Daisy’, and A Second Life find the band tackling elements of folk, electronica, and classical. It’s generally best to not get bogged down in such terminology, and allowing the album to just breathe pays dividends.

I Was On The Back Of A Nightingale opens the album in a stripped back manner, with just vocal and guitar from Morris, but soon the addition of piano and mournful strings make their presence felt. It is an elegant opening and one that finds the band finding exquisite tones and emotion with sparse and delicate structures. The Roots Run Deep moves the band in a more electronic direction, the strings now tangled in a web of glitchy beats and foreboding atmospherics. “I’m alone in here and now I’m mixed up,” chants Morris, as the synths build behind him, heightening the tension and sense of paranoia. Ragman Roll finds Morris lost in an echoing void with only a piano for company. It’s here that the band edges along the line marked ‘OK Computer era Radiohead‘ without ever stepping over it and into sickly homage.

At the heart of the album is the quite phenomenal title track. An eight and a half minute epic, it is an example how gifted Her Name Is Calla is when it comes to dynamics. Starting as a simplistic guitar and vocal track, the careful addition of female vocals, strings and the low ominous rumble of a drum pull the song in different emotional directions. At the mid point the strings begin to soar, lifting towards the heavens.

From there things begin to take on a more forceful tone. There may be an aching scream of a bowed saw, but when the guitars begin to feedback and the ominous punches of the rack toms hammer home, brutality, beauty, triumph and despair all come together as one. The 11 minute epic of Dreamlands is even more expansive and perfectly pitched. It could so easily have been overblown and overreaching, but instead manages to become a real musical journey which diverts (rather pleasingly) through David Lynch country.

The thrust of Navigator might be the loss of youthful dreams, but if age and experience mean that it is possible to create an exemplary work such as this, then maybe getting old isn’t so bad after all.

buy Her Name Is Calla MP3s or CDs
Spotify Her Name Is Calla on Spotify

More on Her Name Is Calla
Her Name Is Calla – Navigator