t’s going to take years to sort out the connections, projects, and ideas that Carla Bozulich has produced in her lengthy career—from armpit-hair wielding frontwoman of Geraldine Fibbers to Willie Nelson covering traditionalist (with stop-offs for performance art and industrial-punk along the way), Bozulich is following a muse that runs her ragged. This time out Carla finds herself in Canada amidst assorted Constellation Records-related folk and the multi-instrumentalist and hugely talented Shahzad Ismaily hashing out ragged improvised-splattered blues.
The opening “Evangelista I” sets the tone. It’s a nearly ten-minute death march that encompasses raving preachers, a discomfiting mass of strings, and Bozulich’s wildly vacillating vocals (from a whisper to a scream). Those waiting for Willie to show up and contribute a guitar melody will turn this off by the third minute—those familiar with Bozulich’s entire oeuvre will be hooked. “Steal Away” follows “Evangelista I” and provides respite from the uncomfortable claustrophobia of its predecessor. An organ welcomes you, a twinkling piano tells you to sit down, and Bozulich makes you feel right at home.
“Baby, That’s The Creeps” would be similarly cozy if the track’s organ didn’t waver as though water-damaged. The undulating tones provide a simmering bed for Bozulich’s theatrics. Early on she repeats “Can you feel it?” as if it isn’t a rhetorical question. Whereas some Constellation labelmates might build this into a crescendo and eventually provide a sense of closure, Bozulich doesn’t give an inch—leaving the tension coiled for her cover of Low’s “Pissing.” It’s an inspired choice and, due to the recording conditions, has the haunted house feeling that it deserved the first time around. Closer “Evangelista II” is the album’s greatest highlight, however. Working over a spare backing that might’ve easily made it on to a Silver Mt. Zion record as an instrumental, Bozulich gives a straight-laced performance that haunts long after the music ends.
If her recent work is any indication, Evangelista will just be another fascinating one-off for Bozulich. Even more restless than she was earlier in her career, her last three albums have varied so wildly that it’s hard to imagine an artist doing more to prevent an audience from building around her work. With music this good, though, they’ll surely find it eventually. Even if it takes years to sort it all out.