Calla – Strength In Numbers

Calla
Strength In Numbers

While Calla’s new album, Strength In Numbers, maintains the somber mood and a few remnants from the excellent, jagged and hook filled alt-rock that graced their 2005 release Collisions, it also sees the NYC trio more subdued, but no less engaging, as they trade their heavy riffs for darker and murkier undercurrents.

What hasn’t changed is Calla’s ability to create glowering guitar rock while marauding through a pop landscape to produce absorbing, angst-ridden alternative rock. But where Collision’s melodies are more immediate, and the tight signature changes more hook-laden, Strength In Numbers requires closer attention and repeated listens before the edgy melodies permeate through the dark atmospherics.

Similar to the way The Cure steered away from their commercial pop tendencies and into bleaker rock territory with Pornography, Disintegration and Bloodlflowers, Calla appear to be taking that turn as well with Strength In Numbers. Similarities to The Cure don’t end there either. Like the Cure’s Robert Smith, Calla’s frontman Aurelio Valle waxes poetic with heavy, world-weary lyrics and a thick, strained tension. Only Valle does it with a much deeper and richer voice sounding more like Andrew Eldritch (Sisters Of Mercy) than Robert Smith (The Cure).

Curiously the first two tracks and the last two tracks are the ones that sound like bonus cuts from Collisions with upbeat rhythms, resounding bass lines and a mix of sharp, angular guitars and shadowy post-punk similar to Ambulance LTD and Interpol. Opener “Sanctify” blasts off with hard-edged rhythms and searing guitars, followed by “Defenses Down” whose catchy and slick melodies build smoothly to a great rockin’ climax. The last two cuts, “Simone” and “Dancers In The Dust” employ similar up-tempo rhythms and close the album nicely.

It’s the nine tracks in between where Calla’s sound becomes a bit more diffuse with slower tempos and less active melodies. But Valle (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Wayne Magruder (drums) and Peter Gannon (bass) use the more open arrangements as an opportunity to experiment with varied musical textures including the somberly reflective guitars and swirling keyboards of post-rock, and at times even venturing onto the same indie-prog turf tread upon by Elbow. The expertly crafted “Rise”, “Stand Paralyzed” and “Bronson” are shining examples of this cunning hybrid.

Calla’s sound continues to evolve as they explore divergent musical avenues within the context of potent, atmospheric alt-rock. As with Collisions, the sound production, recording and mixing are all above standard, giving Strength In Numbers added appeal that makes for absorbing repeated listens at either high or low volumes.