Her Name is Calla: Ragman Roll
Her Name is Calla

Her name is Calla's new single, Ragman Roll (self-released in 500 seven-inch numbered copies), is the Leeds-based quintet's first recorded offering since 2010's ten-inch Maw and debut full-length The Quiet Lamb. Line-up changes have occurred in the interim, with core members Tom Morris (vocals, piano, banjo, guitar), Adam Weikert (drums, organ, banjo, mandolin, piano, double bass) and Sophie Green (violin) newly joined by cellist Nicole Robson and bassist John Helps. Offering two dramatically different sides of the band, the new two-track outing is a more-than-promising harbinger of things to come.

Spurred on by urgent piano playing, the vocal delivery in the opening “Ragman Roll” hints that Morris's got a bad case of the Thom Yorkes, though the former's impassioned attack does much to override whatever similarities emerge between the two. The mysterioso instrumental backdrop also makes a strong impression, especially when bolstered by the low-pitched hum of a wordless choir and augmented by ride cymbals and eerie orchestral washes. Comparatively speaking, “It Was Flood” finds the group casting off the influences of others and marking out its own distinctive territory with a neo-pastoral arrangement heavy on strings and acoustic guitar. Once again an eerie quality pervades the material, so much so one could imagine Her name is Calla being called upon by The Brothers Quay to soundtrack their next project. Banjo and piano expand the palette nicely, as does a vocal section that finds male and female voices doubling up; in its deployment of such resources, the group demonstrates a Balmorhea-like sensitivity to sonority and arrangement. The single's material is haunting and cryptic, even sometimes verging on nightmarish—not a bad combination by any means, and some moments are stirring enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and that's no small thing either.

January 2013