The Bio below was written at the time of Calla’s release Scavengers for Young God in 2000. The membership has changed since, and they’ve gone on to some success – look ‘em up at Callamusic.com
- Michael Gira/Young God Records 2008
Calla is a three-piece band with Aurelio Valle (guitar/vocals), Wayne b. Magruder (drums/ programming/ percussion), and Sean Donovan (keyboard/bass/programming). The three roommates formed Calla at the end of 1997 and recorded their debut LP throughout 1998 at their home in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn. Calla's self-titled debut was released in mid 1999 on Sub Rosa. They are currently recording their second album with Michael Gira¸ to be released in the winter of 2000 on Young God Records (in the USA) and Sub Rosa (rest of the world). Aurelio Valle was raised in South Texas. He relocated to North Texas in early '93 and formed The Factory Press with long time band mate Pete Gannon and Wayne b. Magruder. After releasing a 7" and an EP on Austin's N D Records, The Factory Press relocated to New York City and recorded their final album, "The Smoky Ends of a Burnt Out Day" with Matt Verta-Ray and Kid Congo Powers producing. After the demise of The Factory Press, Valle played in various Rock-a-billy and Garage bands. In late '97, with intentions of fusing a vintage sound with modern influences, Valle formed Calla with Wayne b. Magruder and long-time collaborator Sean Donovan.
Wayne b. Magruder was born and raised in Texas, where he met Sean Donovan at grade school. They played in various bands throughout high school together and finally formed Fallen Vlods, an experimental electro-acoustic duo (1992-1996). Magruder studied design at the University of North Texas, where he joined The Factory Press (ND Records) as drummer. When the band relocated to New York City, Magruder joined Bowery Electric as a live drummer. Subsequent Bowery Electric touring with E.A.R. in '96, and Main in '97 followed, as well as playing live percussion with Robert Hampson and drums with Windsor for the Derby. In 1997, Magruder recorded with Bowery Electric on their second LP, "Beat" (Kranky). Desiring to integrate electronics, triggers, and samples in a rock format, Magruder formed Calla with Sean Donovan and Aurelio Valle in late 1997. Magruder also acts as graphics/ web designer for eacherHundreds/ calla.
Sean a. Donovan is a classically trained composer whose primary interests include sound mass and the manipulation of timbre through space. He has been influenced by the American experimentalist tradition, especially the New York school of the 1950's and the Fluxus composers of the 1960's. In 1996, he organized the Simultaneity series, an event where the work of more than 30 artists were superimposed in time and space. Upon relocating to New York in 1997, Donovan worked closely with Petr Kotik and the S.E.M. Ensemble. Known for its presentation of avant-garde orchestral music, he participated in the world premiere performances of Phil Niblock, Roscoe Mitchell, Elliot Sharp, and Kotik, and organized events at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and The Guggenheim Museum. He also helped in the preparation of a performance of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Gruppen (for three orchestras) and in the editing of the complete recording of Morton Feldman's Turfan Fragments and Kotik's Many Many Women. Donovan's chamber piece, cg no. 23, will be released later this year on Sub Rosa as part of their Un-classical series. He is currently finishing up his first solo CD project, fk.42, a work based on the diaries of Franz Kafka. In 1992, he formed eacherHundreds, a label dedicated to experimental music, with long-time friend Wayne Magruder.
Here are some reviews
6/1/2001 | allmusic.com | Andy Kellman
Calla | Scavengers | Review
AMG Expert Review
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-drone work of restrained, immense power. Despite the disparate elements, everything comes together ridiculously well.
By Brandon Stosuy
Calla's 1999 self-titled debut was the type of record that's typically filed under "avant" in loftier music stores. Not quite rock, not quite post-rock, it was a fuzz-caked affair described by luminaries like Alternative Press as, "Quiet tension without release and music without boundaries." Truth be told, with its vocals mixed super-low, screeching guitars, and nearly formless songwriting, Calla was inaccessible and came off as almost absurdly pretentious.
The group's second LP, then, is a sweetly stinging smack in the face. From the start, with the stellar "Fear of Fireflies," it's clear that the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Texas trio is shedding more skin than the snakes they grew up around. With tinny percussion, folky acoustic strumming, melodic basslines, and vocals way up front, it seems that singer/guitarist Aurelio Valle, occasional Bowery Electric cohort drummer Wayne B. Magruder, and bassist/keyboardist Sean Donovan have ditched the obtuse atmospheric electronics that made their debut so impenetrable. The biggest shock, though, comes not from more straight-ahead instrumentation, but from the quality of songwriting. The opener slinks along a brooding line during the verses, until an undeniably infectious, image-laden chorus, in which Valle sings, "See your fireflies hover at the dark/ Following tracers scattered in the park/ Following me."
And much of Scavengers finds Calla on similarly melodic and gorgeous ground. The album's greatest strength is its consistent moodiness-- the brooding air of desperation and paranoia that looms but never wallows in self-importance. It's evident in the twangy "Hover over Nowhere," which is framed by sluggish slow-core drums washed away by a (slightly) brighter chorus with a lamenting guitar packed with reverb. The claustrophobic "Traffic Sound" sports a low-end pulse and ominous guitar riff similar to the one in Portishead's "Sour Times." "Love of Ivah" is a sparse guitar and bass ballad in which Valle remarks, "I hope I never see you in another life/ I just might try seeking shelter underneath my skin."
If the music and lyrics create the mood of Scavengers, Valle's vocals realize and perfect it. His breathy, sometimes whispered delivery sounds alternately affected and apathetic, as though he's fatally wounded and using his waning strength to attempt to shrug it off. Though his approach is potentially disastrous, he sounds utterly genuine, like when he sings, "Sorry for the inconvenience/ It's only 'cause I'm losing patience," after the song has just rapidly built up to dynamic cacophony.
Calla temporarily revert back to the ways of their debut on two Scavengers tracks, "Mayzelle" and "A Fondness for Crawling." While neither song seems out of place, both serve as the record's low points. When a band is as adroit as Calla at more or less "conventional" songwriting, atmospheric compositions consisting of polyrhythmic tablas, atonal hums, and harsh scraping sounds simply feel like unnecessary experiments.
But for the most part, Calla bypass revisiting their difficult debut and instead reinvent themselves as a brooding, masterfully melodic pack. And Scavengers is testament to the success that comes when a band turns its back on self-written exposition, and expertly comes out of its shell.
-Richard M. Juzwiak
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