Calla was formed in New York City in 1997 by Aurelio Valle (guitar, vocals), Sean Donovan (bass, keyboards, programming), and Wayne B. Magruder (percussion, programming). However, the band's origins can be traced to Texas in 1993, where Valle and Magruder began performing together in the Denton band the Factory Press. The band relocated to New York in 1995, recording The Smoky Ends of a Burnt out Day with producers Kid Congo Powers and Matt Verta-Ray. The group split in 1997 and the album was not released until early 1998, by which time Valle and Magruder were pursuing new musical ventures. Most notably, Magruder worked with Bowery Electric, Main, and Windsor for the Derby. In 1997, former Factory Press studio collaborator Sean Donovan arrived from Texas and took up residence in Brooklyn with Valle and Magruder. The trio set about writing and recording and Calla was born. Donovan and Magruder -- who had previously worked together as the Fallen Vlods -- shaped Calla's creative process around sampling and programming, marking a shift away from the approach taken by the Factory Press. A four-track demo was completed in 1998, generating interest from the Brussels label Sub Rosa, which released the band's first album to critical acclaim in 1999. Calla's self-titled debut prized apart traditional song structures and reconfigured the components into subtly apocalyptic, cinematic pieces, at times evoking electronically processed Ennio Morricone soundscapes. Calla subsequently made the transition to performance, a process that gave Valle, Magruder, and Donovan their first taste of playing together outside a studio environment. Playing live had a significant impact on the band's sound and direction. Having been excited by the debut album, Michael Gira was particularly impressed by the way Calla's music had been changed by live performance, and signed the group to his label, Young God Records. The band's first album on Young God, Scavengers (January 2001), marked a subtle change in orientation. Scavengers was less reliant on studio processing and although it displayed a familiar atmospheric minimalist sensibility, its textures coalesced into more conventional song formats. Understanding the mixture of indie rock and high-concept art that their music represented, Televise (January 2003) solidified their jagged indie pop sound. Collisions followed two years later. Calla went on tour in Europe the following year. Their fifth album, Strength in Numbers, was released in 2007. ~ Wilson Neate
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Pop/Rock - Released February 1, 2003 | Talitres Records
Televise is Calla's third album of strange, noise-infected indie pop. Static-filled drones hover and pulse and function in the way a rhythm section would in a traditional rock outfit. The band builds itself carefully around the electronics contributed by bassist/keyboardist Sean Donovan and drummer Wayne Magruder. Guitarist/vocalist Aurelio Valle's melodies don't stand out, particularly, except for their framing -- and that alone is enough to make them function differently from most of Calla's contemporaries. Even forays into more traditional songwriting, such as "As Quick as It Comes/Carrera," are successful, revealing a tender, Yo La Tengo-like sound from the group -- albeit equally informed by the ambient side, as demonstrated by the subtly stereo-panned drums on the same track. Televise is an impressive and adventurous -- if occasionally mopey -- collection of songs. ~ Jesse Jarnow
Alternative & Indie - Released January 16, 2001 | Young God Records
Sweltering rockabilly, sedated tempos, and unsettling electronic noise combine for a bizarrely austere form of rural beauty on Calla's second record. Differing from most slow-motioned indie acts, the occasional lazy tempos seem to be borne of the withered and dazed effect from oppressive heat and humidity, rather than earmuffed nippiness. Aurelio Valle's whispered, tense, and plaintive intimacy gives off the effect of a disturbed Joe Pernice. His tone is pretty fatalistic, but he sounds perfectly at home in his discomfort without veering into doom and gloom. His guitars endlessly churn and bristle, highlighted most effectively on "The Swarm," the rockist centerpiece of the album that ends with three minutes of dissonance-drenched rockabilly on the level of prime Gun Club and early Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The inspirations aren't all swampy; the six-minute "Tijerna" concludes with repetitive Velvet Underground/Joy Division spirals of guitar. "Mayzelle" and "Fondness for Crawling" act as interludes on the second half of the record, consisting of nothing but ambient noise -- otherwise, the electronics nestle or emanate from underneath the more "proper" songs like gas fumes from a parched roadway. There's a ton of low end, too. The final touch is a dusty cover of U2's "Promenade," which is more properly formatted for a Wim Wenders film than any other by the Irish band, despite the ill-suited lyrics. If you're dealt with a midnight power outage in 100% humidity, hope that there are batteries left in the boombox to play this solemn, sturm-und-drang work of restrained, immense power. Despite the disparate elements, everything comes together ridiculously well. ~ Andy Kellman
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