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Evangelista - In Animal Tongue

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Artist: Evangelista

Album: In Animal Tongue

Label: Constellation

Review date: Sep. 29, 2011

Evangelista - "Artificial Lamb" (In Animal Tongue)

There are albums that one listens to for relaxation, those that lend energy, those that are escapist, those that tell stories. And then there are the ones that open a door to another place, another mind. Listening to Evangelista’s In Animal Tongue is like having your guilty conscience whispering in your ear — not necessarily a bad thing, but you might not want to hear it all the time.

The key to Carla Bozulich’s project is space and physicality: there’s something about the way the songs are organized that gives them volume without mass, and presence without weight. Songs like "Tunnel to the Stars" float lightly, but can’t be ignored. A wheezing organ drones as scratchy strings squeak, while Bozulich’s voice creeps around as if heard from another room in a haunted mansion. On some of these songs, simple guitar strumming is recorded in such a way that you can hear every movement, not just the intended notes, and the physical presence lends a sort of sonic verité, the inverse of Top 40 sterility. Elegaic, ominous, and eerie are the keywords, but with crackling energy: "Bells Ring Fire" underpins emotional vocals with unadorned cello, and is nakedly evocative even as it unrolls amidst huge open spaces.

At times, In Animal Tongue carries on a bit too far. Bozulich lets it all hang out in her vocals, and occasionally overreaches only to find herself ever-so-slightly across the line between creepy and camp. But that’s a rarity. More often, she channels emotion in a way reminiscent of Patti Smith. In opener "Artificial Lamb," she fills a dank, dead atmosphere with fiery words. At other times her chanting is like a stripped-down Swans, and on "Hands of Leather," the band creates the sound of a crazed ritual.

Disorienting, uneasy listening, Evangelista here asks for something from the listener in exchange for its stories. You won’t be putting this on while you putter around the house — you need to listen and absorb. It won’t always work. But when it does, you’ll find the door open and a fascinating terrain inside.

By Mason Jones

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