Evangelista: Hello, Voyager

Carla Bozulich unleashes the full force of her ferocious vocal powers on Hello, Voyager, a volcanic, nine-track collection issued under the new band name Evangelista (the title, in fact, of her 2006 Constellation album). Though it might seem hard to imagine, the new release is even more fearless and uncompromising than its predecessor, with Bozulich's singing receiving simpatico support from a core group of bassist Tara Barnes, organist Nadia Moss, and drummer Shahzad Ismaily, and supplemented by more than a dozen Montreal-based players, many of them members of Thee Silver Mt. Zion. The musicians match her raw attack step for step, and the album alternates long and short pieces (two instrumentals) of varying stylistic character—some raging, some delicate—with the coup de grace coming at the end in the twelve-minute epic title track.

There is aggression—her voice alternates between a spoken drawl and ravaged shriek in “Winds of St. Anne,” and Efrim Menuck's bruising guitar and Ismaily's drumming lead a blistering charge in the incendiary “Truth is Dark Like Outer Space”—but restraint too. Offering temporary shelter from the storm, “Lucky Lucky Luck” lets her play the coy coquette on a jazzy vamp, while Bozulich, prodded by Moss's organ punctuations and Barnes' bass, adopts a more restrained approach during the funereal meditation “Paper Kitten Claw” (“In a disaster they found you unfurled and your shirt up your neck…”). “The Blue Room” documents the delicate side of her music-making and, melodically and compositionally, is an album standout. In many ways a vocal chamber-styled setting, the song features a striking ascending vocal melody that's sensitively buoyed by strings, organ, and acoustic guitar (the latter by Nels Cline). The inclusion of the string-based interlude “For the L'il Dudes,” a dirge that Carla composed but doesn't appear on, comes as a surprise but a welcome one, while her guttural moans in the nightmarish “The Frozen Dress” make it feel like the soundtrack to an exorcism. The title piece is one of those epic, sprawling improvs in the classic “Howl” tradition that finds Bozulich testifying with her feverish scream duking it out with an abrasive firestorm generated by Brooke Crouser's “space guitar” and an army of percussion players. In place of Ginsberg's “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the Negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix…,” we get “Voyagers!!! Set down upon the earth. Open your cramped legs locked in that flying suit of lights. Open your eyes, adjust your eyes to the dark…” and so on. Hello, Voyager is anything but a calming experience but one admires the fierce determination with which Evangelista pursues its extreme vision.

March 2008