Beginning with her first Constellation release in 2006, Carla Bozulich’s Evangelista project has steadily been gaining recognition for its complex beauty and fierce, raging appeals. Bozulich has been knocking these and many other ideas into form for two decades (Neon Veins, Ethyl Meatplow, The Geraldine Fibbers, Scarnella). Evangelista is the best and the brightest, filled with adventurous risk taking that sometimes whispers and licks, sometimes pulls the listener so close that it is hard to breathe, sometimes screams in ritual satisfaction. A consistent bucking of categorization ensues. When pressed, Carla calls it Gospel Noise. Evangelista landed on the cover of UK music magazine The Wire in June 2008, following the release of the group’s second album, Hello Voyager (which also made The Wire and several other mags’ year-end lists). Bozulich/Evangelista has also recently appeared at numerous prestigious music festivals, including FIMAV (Musique Actuelle) in Canada, Le Weekend in Scotland and the Ruhrtriennale in Germany. The new Evangelista album Prince Of Truth stays true to the band’s uncompromising and compelling combination of delicate coaxing love and wicked cathartic awakening sonic voyage. Not so much confessional as ritual/processional and invitational says Bozulich: “inviting the listener to come clean, to defy or just be near people you believe in, to sit down, all of us together and make sense of the fact that there is no logic and perhaps no Truth at the base of anything, that we must open up and up and up because if we do not we are just fish gone belly-up in the stream – there is a Prince inside us that will grow into nothing more or less than an everyday person moving free, armed with the salvation of sound and love.” Having toured extensively throughout North America and Europe during the year-and-a-half following the release of Hello Voyager, Evangelista has coalesced around a core trio, with 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, most notably Lisa Gamble (who played everything from musical saw to bike wheel). Gamble also occasionally joins the band on tour (as do a wide cast of misfits from around the globe). 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. Opening track “The Slayer” is one of the most spine-tingling songs we’ve heard from Carla (and she’s offered up quite a few over the years). The lyrics testify to a force or persona of terrifying power and ambiguity – “Am I here to watch over you / Am I here to destroy you / Am I here just to think it matters what I do” – the voice cutting through the cauldron of sound circling and dive-bombing around it. “Tremble Dragonfly” follows, a haunted invocation of a “wicked flying thing”, swaddled in a gorgeously stretched and distressed string arrangement punctuated by chimes, gongs, musical saw and autoharp. “I Lay There In Front Of Me Covered In Ice” is marked by a devastating lyric and a stone cold soul organ part by Dominic Cramp. “Iris Didn’t Spell” moans forth with the dual contrabass dissonance of Thierry Amar and Jonah Fortune before breaking into a supple groove anchored by Ches Smith on drums. “On The Captain’s Side”, which perfectly and bracingly closes the record, is a post-apocalyptic sea shanty of sorts, with lyrics penned by Tara Barnes (who also wrote the voyager-themed lyrics for “Truth Is Dark Like Outer Space” on the band’s previous album). Jessica Catron makes a cameo appearance here, singing lead vocal through a cacophony of Bozulich’s harmonic voices: “The veins in my hands expand anticipating their use / my ship will speed like the light through portals darker than the darkest night…I float in the sea alone as far as the eye can see / for luck always be on the captain’s side. Prince Of Truth is also a sort of Pro Tools fantasia wrought from purgatory, not only figuratively and stylistically, but quite literally as well. Initial tracking was scheduled at the Hotel2Tango studio in Montreal, with regular Evangelista collaborators Shahzad Ismaily, Lisa Gamble, Thierry Amar, Nadia Moss and Ches Smith all in attendance. On day two of the sessions, a nasty throat infection Carla had been fighting on a preceding tour evolved into a full-blown medical drama, confining her to bed for the ensuing weeks. The band went on to track the song foundations, along with a pile of extras, outtakes and overdubs, and Bozulich returned to her Los Angeles home with these stacks of tracks digitized from the analog master tapes. Over the next two months, she de- and re-constructed these sessions, adding vocals and rallying additional contributions from Nels Cline, Ezra Buchla, Devin Hoff, Jessica Catron and more. 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.
Recorded by Efrim Menuck at Hotel2Tango, Montreal, Canada and Carla Bozulich at Runaway’s House, Los Angeles, USA.
Mixed and produced, for better or worse, by Carla Bozulich. Additional tracking by Mark Wheaton at Catasonic, Tar and Dominic up in Oakland Town, and Shahzad Ismaily at home.
Mastered by Harris Newman at GreyMarket Mastering.