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Evangelista - Hello, Voyager

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Artist: Evangelista

Album: Hello, Voyager

Label: Constellation

Review date: Mar. 6, 2008

Formaldehyde, sandpaper melodies coated with cough syrup, pernicious prose and a lacerated, palpating heart removed via rusty melon baller: an inventory of the contents of Hello, Voyager, the not-quite debut of Carla Bozulich’s not-quite new band, Evangelista.

It’s not quite a debut, because Bozulich has previously recorded with many of these same Montreal musicians, including members of A Silver Mt. Zion. Her last album, also called Evangelista, was a harrowing semi-narrative of intimate vexation. Hello, Voyager, by the band Evangelista, is a harrowing semi-narrative of intimate vexation. If you’re confused, it doesn’t really matter.

Bozulich is a Los Angelino with a considerable post-punk/ experimental/art-rock/busted country CV. Her work with Nels Cline in the Geraldine Fibbers was plenty exciting, and her re-imagination of Willie Nelson’s seminal Red Headed Stranger album stands out as one of the most curious takes on the country ever to hit tape. Now, Bozulich is somewhere else entirely, and I’m not talking about Canada. Like Alice fallen down the rabbit hole, she’s swapped the comforts of home for a completely alien environment populated by sundry grotesqueries.

Ache is caked into the crevices of this album. Bozulich sings like a debased ex-nun with a five-pack-a-day Marlboro habit. The accompaniment is alternately subtle and surly, with delicate strums and thrums offset by raucous string scrapes and assorted percussive rumbles. Bozulich stumbles through a sagging mansion of sound like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, which is to say, arch, elegant and utterly used up.

But there is power in the decrepitude. “Truth is Dark Like Outer Space” is a travelogue of defiance, an unswerving drive through the real and the raw. “Voyagers alright / We’re shoving off tonight / The truth is they lied, so we shut ’em off like a light,” Bozulich brazenly sings over a propulsive blast of gutter-rock.

“Paper Kitten Claw” is downbeat and claustrophobic, with a minor-key pulse and violins that slice like razor across wrist. “In a disaster they found you unfurled and your shirt up your neck and your chest paper-smooth like secrets untold,” Bozulich speak-sings with a kind of lethargic menace. Her band counters with sinister organ vamps and wrenching harmonies.

The centerpiece of Hello, Voyager is “Lucky Luck Luck,” which plays like the reform-school twin sister of that awful KT Tunstall song. You know one with the “whoo-hoos.” This has “whoo-hoos,” too, but it’s also got a vibe of cruelty and peril, much like the junkie streets Bozulich roamed in her teens and twenties. “Ten plus nine in this town of mine with petty crooks all droppin dimes / Nite time we’d terrorize the dealers downtown and the tricks with their sticky moneys,” she sings over a ratty blooz progression.

The longer Bozulich makes music, the more pain and grief she seems to uncover. Some exorcisms take a while, I suppose.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

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