Calls: Refloating (Independent, 2016)
Calls is a post-rock trio hailing from Long Island, NY. The trio is Josh (guitar & loops), Joe (bass), and Michael (drums). Calls began as a duo but later started working on serious material about two years ago. The result of that focus is the nine track Refloating. It is their debut album and demonstrates an aptitude to tell epic, musical stories in the space of shorter compositions.
“Cross the Plane” kicks off the album with guitar picking and complex drum work. The bass floats amid the guitar work acting as the glue necessary in a three piece. At about 1.13, it gets interesting as a pause occurs and then the guitar fuzzes out a bit and things get a bit louder. There is an ebb and flow to this brief track that gives it an intricacy and complexity. It’s impressive for a three piece. “Nothing Massive” begins at a slower pace with intricate guitar picking again. It has flavors of classic rock along with those larger, more aggressive post-rock elements akin to bands like Caspian. “Nothing Massive” flows into “Climbing the Final Boss’ Tower” which is this wonderfully bright and episodic piece. Calls has this ability to take very short tracks (“Climbing the Final Boss’ Tower is only 2:35) and make them feel like these epic adventures. They know how to tell a story with sound and volume.
“Saguaro” brings in a classic rock flavor sprinkled with the glittery guitar sounds of some dream pop bands. Floating chords flutter over rhythmic syncopations and a repeated bass line that drives the undercurrent of the track forward. The ebbs and flows in this composition are housed primarily in guitar tones and layered loops that move in and out of the mix. The choice of guitar phrasing here is thoughtful and intricate. “Everything You Need to Live Wonderfully” has a more dream-like feel than previously on the album. It’s a wonderfully placed middle track on the album. The guitar patterns are bright and hypnotic while the percussion almost has a jazz, swing feel to it. “Hotfoot” continues that swing vibe on the drums. Calls takes the tempo down a bit here and just lays back in the pocket, bringing the listener along on a gliding tour. The guitars fuzz out about two minutes in but the swing and that laid-back feel remains throughout. The volume and layers get cranked up around four minutes as the crescendo is reached before the trio moves to resolution.
“Longest Ride Ever” plugs back into that classic rock feel and has a melancholy feel to it. The brightness of “Everything You Need to Live Wonderfully” has faded a bit here and there is a more down to earth tone. Perhaps it’s supposed to be nostalgic of long car rides with the folks on hot summer days with that longing for simple things to be present once again. As the song ramps up, there is this Explosions in the Sky feel that begins to present itself. The title track, “Refloating”, is the longest on the album, clocking in at 7:04. If the band can “paint” an epic sonic picture in their shorter tracks, they certainly don’t disappoint in doing so in their longer form pieces. In “Refloating”, Calls uses volume, silence, pauses, guitar tones, bass and drum expressions to paint episodic moments throughout the length of the composition, changing tempo, textures, and sonics throughout. “Refloating” flows into the finale “Sufferfish” without pause. Toms pound under the trills of guitar lines almost in a weeping fashion. At 1:20, the guitars explode and the drums play a brilliantly off-beat piece under the fuzz. This, of course, does not remain because Calls tends to change everything up a few times as a track progresses. It’s this complexity that gives their compositions expression. Again, there is this sort of jazz feel to their work because they take a certain key or phrase and then just play with it in different ways and tempos throughout the song. “Sufferfish”, and the album, ends in a spaced-out reverb and then silence.
Refloating is an impressive debut album. Calls bring in the feel of classic rock and more progressive post-rock with what feels like jazz leanings. They can move from quiet moments to explosive ones with the ease of a storyteller who weaves tales of adventures laced with moments of stillness. The work is complex, yet simple, and worth any post-rock fan’s time.
The Calls website.
Download the album at their Bandcamp site.
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