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Carla Bozulich is an art-punk heroine. Time and again she has headed up bands that sound like nothing else and arguably stake out genres unto themselves: the bent agit-prop of Ethyl Meatplow; the ferocious roots-tinged epic rock of The Geraldine Fibbers; the vocal-driven sound-art of Scarnella and Evangelista; her large-scale performances including the ongoing Eyes For Ears series. Her first "solo" record, the 2003 album-length cover of Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger, was rightly hailed as a masterpiece of reinterpretation and recontextualisation. Her first album for Constellation was 2006’s Evangelista, after which Bozulich adopted the Evangelista moniker for subsequent work, and released three more albums between 2008-2011. She has set aside Evangelista for now, to focus on the songs that form Boy, her third record under her own name.
Boy is Carla's self-proclaimed "pop record" and undoubtedly it is, albeit within the context of her particular path of experimentation and deconstruction. Boy is a refreshing and much-needed reminder of what pop – as an oblique angle, influence, and intent – can do in the hands of a ferociously commanding singer/lyricist who has cut her teeth on genre-bending, genre–blending, and DIY aesthetics. Bozulich says she was “resuscitated” in her teenage years by punk rock, and then “destroyed, in a good way” by people re-inventing the idea of how music works. Here is a batch of ten songs that clock in at 3-5 minutes each, mostly hewing to recognizable structures of verse, chorus and bridge, but full of destabilizing accents and strategies, and nothing that could read as winking irony, gloss or mere effect/affect. The songs are grounded by hooks and melodies, delivered by the singing itself, with the underlying instrumentation and arrangements always in the service of Carla's voice and lyrics – in that respect, there is a strong through-line from the Evangelista albums. But Boy sharpens and focuses each song's intent and structure; unlike most of the Evangelista work, this new album, apart from a song or two, would not be mistaken for sound art, dark ambient, or quasi-Industrial music.
While Bozulich wrote most of it, played the majority of the instruments and made the album artwork, the album’s creation was aided, abetted and sometimes rescued by the input of John Eichenseer (aka JHNO). The duo traveled and played together all over North America, Europe, South America and India - with a particularly fruitful burst of writing on a tiny island off the coast of Istanbul. They joined the Italian drummer Andrea Belfi in Berlin to record with his impeccable rhythmic support. The songwriting reflects a life of travel - remaining purposefully uprooted and nomadic, living without ever really unpacking that single bag - and guided by some of Bozulich's most perceptive, honest and sometimes venomous lyrics.
Boy unfurls a beautiful, unsettling narrative wrung from an artistic life of unflinching creative experience, commitment, courage and learning. It is sharp, supple, satisfying and generous. - cstrecords.com/
"'Boy' moves away from the loose instrumentation and sparse production of Evangelista, and makes much use of the interplay of surfaces, setting vocals amid thick, fetid atmospheres that part to reveal unexpected surfaces... ‘One Hard Man’ stomps and clangs itself to fever pitch, invoking lust on a seismic scale, whilst the hushed bluegrass ballad ‘Drowned to the Light’ meaves mystery from John Eichenseer’s wiry viola and looped, birdlike screeches. The deser gothic of 'Don't Follow Me', meanwhile, creates a sense of watchful edginess from drummer Andrea Belfi's rolling, reverberant tom hits and a windswept organ whine.”- The Wire (March 2014)
One of my favorite things about Carla Bozulich is her ability to so beautifully deconstruct and then reassemble various strains of roots music into something that feels both completely alien and inextricably connected to the work from which it draws influence. Her previous solo albums, Red Headed Stranger and Evangelista, were prime examples of this, with the former modernizing Willie Nelson’s classic work, and the latter reducing the minimal harmonic movement of blues/gospel songs into haunting drones augmented by Bozulich’s fervent vocals. Bozulich’s more recent albums with her band Evangelista still explored the art of deconstruction, but that project often seemed more focused on delightfully cathartic eclecticism in comparison to the focus of her solo work.
Bozulich’s forthcoming album, Boy, is another excellent foray into the realm of the deconstructed song, but where Evangelista focused on creating drone-based soundscapes out of the remnants of song forms, Boy focuses on generating hypnotic grooves that subtly allow melodies to drift off into weirder territories at any moment. “Lazy Crossbones” is a particularly great example of Boy’s aesthetic. The track is reminiscent of the more rhythmic moments on Talk Talk’s later records, and like those albums, “Lazy Crossbones” embeds its formal deconstruction into the song structure itself. On the surface, “Lazy Crossbones” may seem fairly straightforward, but listen closely and you can hear Bozulich’s consistently incredible voice being used as a catalyst for the song to be taken into new sonic territories. It’s a great example of how Bozulich’s ability to re-contextualize has grown even more streamlined and synthesized with her recent work.- Tiny Mix Tapes
"Bozulich dips into her more abstract, primal tendencies on this album, hinting at earlier work with the Geraldine Fibbers and even Evangelista (nary a whiff of her occasional forays into folk and alt-country, however). But it’s absolutely, distinctively her own, a challenging collection of tunes." Blurt Online
"The track “Lazy Crossbones” opens with a mid-tempo drum pattern—the drums recorded with enough air to define a convincing picture of the performance space—before making room for warm keys, searching guitar, and, of course, Bozulich’s special voice, which is as alluring as it is alarming. The result is something like a wonderfully twisted, damaged Fleetwood Mac single—beautiful, powerful, and chilling: equal parts nightmare and 'Dreams.'" - Stereophile
Reasons for not making art are all around us. It serves its own purpose. But it seems we’re stuck with this absurd drive. One could call this clinging a plea for levity at best, but the most lasting art always moves past distraction. The stressors that we face in trying to be good or content or ideal become shades instead of obstacles. We wanna create from a position of strength, to command an audience. Yet an artist is only as strong as its art. Life is so much bigger and stronger than what’s in anyone’s brain. Perspective and values, however cherished, are easily shattered by their sheer insignificance in the overwhelmingly complex balance (or lack thereof) of life itself.
But all works of art, like all minds, have the potential to overcome mere sentiment. And that potential is glimpsed here in 10 restless hatchlings that make up Carla Bozulich’s new and perhaps most essential record. There is no shortage of dire, overwhelming music being made that reflects life’s continued de-affirmation through chaos and wanton destructions great and small. What seems to be lacking more often than not is the cold light of day. There is no aesthetic scrim to Boy’s music, despite its traceable precedents. What we have here is human and messy, fearsomely fretting about the tender enclosure of sing-song and how it will not lift you over the chasm. Its hooks are more like bloody torn fingernails at the wall of pleasure-seeking. Not one of these songs are satisfied with themselves, but they exist in a realm of sonic grace that heedlessly pushes ahead.
When Bozulich sings “I just wanna fuck up the whole world” on “Deeper Than The Well,” it’s not a pose. The barren, loping structure of the instrumentation narrows as it goes, teetering on the brink of potent nihilistic forces that lurk around consciousness but hold fast in the glassy glare of despondency that is the vocal. Its severity is tempered by a dangerously attractive sense that you are in the room with this organism, and it’s taking you down to die (finally, a decent night’s sleep). “Wouldn’t it be fine, if at checkout time, I was doing what I’m doing right now” is how this record says goodbye, despite the slinky defiance of its ultra-refracted gospel opener. This album and all its itinerant pieces of paper and plastic will get dusty and mildewed in libraries and desks and landfills. At best, these scraps will be remolded or reused for new scraps. For Bozulich to do what she does, like any artist, she must love what she does as she’s doing it. “Sentiment be damned,” says every unpredictable noise, tonal shift, and rhythmic stutter, “I wanna be here and now — here and now and how”!
And so it is. All fetish and confection aside, Boy is a living, gasping, impassioned/dispassionate grapple with existence. It patiently yet economically moves through melody and rhythm to walking, dancing, convulsing, and fleshing the fuck out. It’s an elegant beast that screams to be, even though the world would sooner acknowledge a video of a cat trying to eat a cactus. I’m excited to’ve communed with this fearsome creature, even if it leaves final obsolescence as my responsibility alone despite the looming. Tomorrow is another day, but this isn’t just another record, and that’s a relief. - Willcoma
|Prince Of Truth|
Prince Of Truth stays true to Evangelista’s uncompromising and compelling combination of delicate coaxing love and wicked cathartic awakening sonic voyage. Evangelista has coalesced around a core trio, with Carla Bozulich and bassist Tara Barnes now joined by keyboardist/sound artist Dominic Cramp. Returning to Montreal and the Hotel2Tango studio where the previous two Evangelista records were made, the new album was co-written by the above trio along with several members of their extended Montreal family.
With Prince Of Truth, Bozulich has shaped her Evangelista group into something more intense, more committed, more complex and more sonically and compositionally obsessive than ever. Conventional song structure is mostly absent – the pieces are built from an extremely diverse set of sound sources, taking shape through layers of accumulation and juxtaposition, foreground and background, sudden shifts, suspensions and dissolutions – and Carla’s commanding voice and brilliant lyrics.
Sprung from the obsessions of Bozulich’s instinctual, maniacally detail-oriented mind and channeled through the incantatory/seductive/soul persona of the classic chanteuse, Carla and her Evangelista band have made an album of searing and beguiling depth, the spoils of a phenomenal group of musicians occupying an entirely original zone at the intersection of improv, noise, post-industrial and musique concrete, forging an experimental gothic soul music for our impossible times. - cstrecords.com/
"The ragged beauty [takes the listener] on an absorbing, experimental and typically emotionally draining journey." Mapsadaisical
"One of Bozulich's most compelling releases... There's a particular kind of angst on display in Prince of Truth that's downright sinister. The noise of it all is emphatically primal, as the songs ooze and bubble out of the dark recesses of some sonic psyche" Exclaim!
"A conflicted and meticulous collection of songs... a hugely current, almost perfectly flawed record." Tiny Mix Tapes
"The seven bleak songs contained herein tiptoe around the fringes of melody... They are like huge wall paintings lit only with a tiny candle: you are aware of their grandiose beauty even if you can’t quite make it out through the darkness."
Drowned in Sound
"There’s a barely restrained brutality to this music, which seems always on the edge of something, either a descent into the abyss or elevation to some majestic heights." Pop Matters
|Hello, Voyager |
We can call this a debut record of sorts, as it is the first album to be released under Carla Bozulich’s band moniker, Evangelista. Bozulich’s first record for Constellation, issued in 2006, was released under her own name, and bore the album title Evangelista. That album title has now migrated to become the band name. So…this album is titled Hello, Voyager, by the band Evangelista, featuring Carla Bozulich.
Carla’s 2006 Constellation release was widely celebrated as her strongest, most fearless and compelling record in years, and ended up on many year end lists, including The Wire (UK), Blow Up (Italy) and WMFU (Brian Turner’s blog) to name a few. Carla toured Evangelista all over Europe and North America, with core bandmate Tara Barnes at her side, and a rotating cast of other musicians, including Shahzad Ismaily and members of Thee Silver Mt Zion (all of whom contributed to the original recording as well).
The Evangelista band continues to comprise Carla and Tara as its nucleus, and continues to build on its relationship with Montreal. Hello, Voyager was recorded in Montreal at the Hotel2Tango by Efrim Menuck in late summer 2007, with an even larger cast of Montreal musicians joining Carla, Tara and Shahzad this time around, to work up a more stylistically diverse batch of songs. Raw, beautifully ravaged, semi-improvised soundscapes underpin Carla’s incantatory sung and spoken lyrics on the album’s opening and closing tracks, but much of the rest of the record is more overtly composed. Blistering nuggets like the snarling “Smooth Jazz” and the desperate “Truth Is Dark Like Outer Space” are the most rocking tunes Carla put to tape since the demise of The Geraldine Fibbers, while “The Blue Room” (one of Carla’s finest songs, and one she has been carrying around for many years) was finally captured in a stunning studio arrangement that includes organ, violin, cello and contrebasse. “Lucky Lucky Luck” is a playful, sassy, fractured take on the misfit narrative and “Paper Kitten Claw” is its methodical, reflective, poetic foil. Carla’s voice perfectly sets and channels the prevailing mood on each song, and is strong as ever. - cstrecords.com/
“Engrossing and full of unexpected twists, Evangelista’s sophomore outing finds Bozulich reborn as a lightning rod of passion and hope.” Magnet
“A truly bracing adventure” Musicworks
“These are torched songs – as if, once (co-)written down, Bozulich has lit the pieces of notepaper on which they were composed and let them slow-burn, crease up and blacken before our very ears…[but] for all of its smouldering, serrated edges, Hello Voyager offers an embrace rather than an assault.”
“[Evangelista] careen through a broken itinerary of radiant darkness… Some of the most heart-wrenching, sordid songcraft this side of Scott Walker.” Tiny Mix Tapes
“Ache is caked into the crevices of this album…The longer Bozulich makes music, the more pain and grief she seems to uncover.” Dusted Magazine
“This is a fascinating record that enjoys toying with musical boundaries and unnerving the listener… It’s damn bleak. But as an artistic endeavour, it’s a resounding success.” Drowned in Sound
“Evangelista is a sound that you can open your chest with, pull out what’s inside and make it change shapes. Make it open more times and, even more… til the sound inside has finally sealed the hole where your vile/beautiful heart belongs… loved and safe even when you think you’re totally alone. Even if you believe in nothing. good or bad, I must report: there’s really no such thing as empty space. Even inside this void there is sound. You will hear it. You will see. You will be cradled and near deafened by love and mercy sounds and the sound of your own pulsing blood which used to drive me mad as a child when I would try to go to sleep…” – Carla
Carla Bozulich needs no introduction. Her work with Ethyl Meatplow, The Geraldine Fibbers, Scarnella, The Red-Headed Stranger (with Willie Nelson) and many others spans over twenty years of uncompromising sound, driven by a voice and vision that consistently delivers spine-tingling beauty, originality and directness. This album (her first on Constellation, and the label’s first release by a non-regional artist) is a devastating, elegiac, brutally honest song cycle that finds her voice unleashed with unprecedented emotive depth and determination. Evangelista is heartrending and gutwrenching, with isolation and desperation redeemed by incantatory sonics and out-reaching, soul-saving words. One damn compelling exorcism of a record, churning and channeling out of loneliness to heal and rebuild connective tissue through sound.
Carla came to Montreal to record the album with Efrim at the original Hotel2Tango in coldest wintertime, with multi-instrumentalist and co-producer Shahzad Ismaily at her side, and a pocketful of beautiful noises and loops prepared back home in L.A. Various guest players added strings, guitars, drums, organ, piano, hums and other sounds. - cstrecords.com/
“'Evangelista' is cloaked with an atmosphere of impending doom but ends with a defiant breath of survival. Bozulich's masterpiece, it rocks with a genuine sense of agony and ecstasy.” The Wire
“It's a soulful, careful work that is the result of a long period of musical experience and growth.”
“Fans of highly emotional, powerful, tormented music will find great beauty in Evangelista's dark drones, quiet reflections and desperate, violent intensity. Stunning!” Left Hip Magazine
“[Bozulich's] bottomless pipes--for those unfamiliar, Bozulich sounds a bit like Neko Case's wicked stepsister--help to give the bleeding instrumental textures an urgency of purpose.” Signal to Noise
“There truly isn't anything worthy of a comparison to the madness and despair that ring from her lyrical prowess.” RIFT Rock