by Michael Alan Goldberg

Calla Thurs May 22


Practically everyone's got a few favorite "3:30 AM" albums--perfect little soundtracks for those literal wee hours, or for when you're just kinda in that frame of mind. If you're lucky, one of 'em is in the jukebox of that dingy bar where you've been hanging out, staring forlornly into your last beer and thinking about the lover's spat that drove you there a few hours earlier. Perhaps it's playing in your head while you're wandering the dark, drizzly city streets because you don't feel like heading home but there's really nowhere to go. Or maybe you're stuck on a bus in the middle of rush hour and you've got those MP3s loaded up in your iPod--an opportunity to detach yourself from the world and slide into a moment of late-night solitude and reflection.

Until earlier this year, I'd always leaned on stuff like Low's Long Division, southpacific's Constance, or Tricky's Maxinquaye for that particular fix. But then along came Calla's Televise, and all the others were rendered utterly inadequate.

The Brooklyn-via-Texas trio certainly knows how to let their songs breathe, but this slo-mo, spaced-out, cinematic fuzz isn't coma-inducing ultra-minimalism. Singer-guitarist Aurelio Valle is the main vibemaster, with a languid, drawling tenor that recalls such mood traffickers as Adam Franklin (Swervedriver) and Mark Lightcap (Acetone). His fretwork is likewise evocative, kicking and bending like vintage Crazy Horse in some spots and reverbing like a spaghetti western theme in others. "Pete the Killer" (not to be confused with his cousin, Cortez) floats on velvety drones and distant feedback manipulations, while "Televised" leads with a choppy funk riff that mimics Lenny Kravitz's "Mama Said" before dipping into the foamy shoegazer surf. Bassist Sean Donovan and drummer Wayne B. Magruder keep things nicely anchored, maintaining each song's careful pacing and coloring them with subtle keyboard and electronic textures that up the atmospheric ante.

I saw Calla play a few years ago in New York City, and the effect was absolutely mesmerizing. Now, with an even better set of songs in tow, you'll likely be entranced long into the night.