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Carla Bozulich - Evangelista

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Artist: Carla Bozulich

Album: Evangelista

Label: Constellation

Review date: Jun. 10, 2006

Carla Bozulich made this record during a cold gray season in Montreal, but the desolation of northern wintertime is nothing compared to the sonic devastation she wreaks on the very first track. “Evangelista I” rolls in like a toxic fog; bells toll, strings groan, phones ring, an engine refuses to start, and then her voice comes in like a last prayer before the ship goes down. When the music stops for a moment, her unaccompanied delivery reminds me of Beefheart’s “Orange Claw Hammer,” but there’s none of that tune’s hallucinatory humor, only palpable anguish. Then the music lurches back into gear, all sampled scrapes and backwards tone-drizzle, and a fire and brimstone preacher bubbles up through the mix. Yup, we’re in Godspeed! You Black Emperor territory, which makes sense since several of that over-the-top orchestra’s members contribute here. Godspeed wore that trick out after their second album, but somehow Bozulich makes it work one more time.

The next tune, “Steal Away,” maintains the blasted gospel vibe, but the singer’s quivering harmonies lighten the load to just a few tons. On “How To Survive Being Hit By Lightning,” amp crackle burns beneath a naked pledge of love and surrender. Then a brief instrumental brings the record up for air before Bozulich dives even deeper into a Marianas Trench of soul-darkness. A churchy, corroding organ wraps around her increasingly desperate cries of refusal on “Baby, That’s the Creeps,” shutting out the light once more. The ensuing clamorous cover of Low’s “Pissing” purges gloom by jamming the song’s head through the speaker cone. “Prince of the World” perpetuates the affective upswing with reverberant mandolins and hallucinatory harmonies. Then the record descends once more into sonic grime, Bozulich’s beseeching voice a beset by cracked sonics and crumbling loops. “Evangelista” is an extravagantly emotional performance, but Bozulich maintains total control throughout. I haven’t listened much to much of Bozulich’s work with Geraldine Fibbers, Scarnella, on her own, or in Ethyl Meatplow; an early encounter with the first band led me to write them off as a drab rock band, but this record makes me wonder if I should give the other stuff another whirl.

By Bill Meyer

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