Carla Bozulich was the first non-Canadian act to sign to Montreal’s Constellation records, and the first with a substantial track record behind her. Her debut album for the label, Evangelista, involved many of the Hotel2Tango studio crew, so sounded right at home among the other acts on the imprint. Evangelista is an intense record. There are moments of quiet intensity, and moments of loud intensity, but the tension is always there. It’s not the easiest listen. The music is not overly intellectual or difficult, just very raw and harrowing.
“Evangelista 1” is the first of two versions on the title track, and kicks of the record. It is a nine minute primal howl. There is a sample of a 1936 sermon by an old-style fire and brimstone minister called Elder Otis Jones, and the track plays like a fiery Baptist tract. Instead of reaching out, the fire is turned inward, and the song comes across as a barely sane tract of disgust, fear and self-loathing. Bozulich has a remarkable voice – it’s an instrument of immense power that sounds a little like a cross between Kristin Hersh and Patti Smith. She doesn’t sing in any conventional sense on “Evangelista 1”, but declaims the song as if she’s channelling the words rather than initiating them. The backing music is a mass of discordant strings and electronic loops. The whole thing is mesmerising, like hearing every dark thought and emotion being exorcised during ten minutes of terror. When I saw her perform the song live, the petite figure of Bozulich seemed demonically possessed by it. It was a draining and bruising experience just watching.
The album closes with “Evangelista 2” which couldn’t be more of a contrast. The second version is quiet and calm – almost serene. The only musical accompaniment is Efrim Menuck’s gentle tremelo guitar strumming. Nothing else on the record is quite as punishing as its lead track, but the other seven songs are all strong, highly emotional pieces. A new LP is due out this autumn.