Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review: Evangelista - Hello, Voyager (2008, Constellation)

Carla Bozulich who is behind this project is a musician I started following some time ago and have so far been positively impressed with her output in the various projects and bands she’s lead or been part of.
With the Geraldine Fibbers it’s been a fast “click” for me, loving the material almost instantly. The same was with Scarnella where she was in a duo with the guitarist extraordinaire Nels Cline (who was also on the later lineup of the Fibbers and plays on acoustic guitar on track 5 here).
Her first album for Constellation Records (known for their post-rock and experimental bands) was under her own name, and the album was titled Evangelista. That name is now the project’s name and we have this 2008 release entitled Hello Voyager.
The core of the band is her with Tara Barnes (bass), Shahzad Ismaily (drums, guitars) and
Nadia Moss (organ).

Powerful as always, her voice is half of the show. Whether singing low, or almost screaming she has an undeniable presence. Not having heard her previous effort I can’t compare between the two, but I can tell you it’s not like her previous bands I’ve mentioned above; which is good because I want to hear something new from her. The lyrics are still (thought)-provoking, shocking and (may be) disturbing (to some). The music goes well with them. Not furious or mad, but her rock is on the theatrical side, as if accompanying her while telling a story. The music goes from the more energetic and angry to being in the role of a mood-setter and responsible for setting the mood without stealing the main lights from her voice and the lyrics. There are some remnants from the country sound that characterized some of the Fibbers’ sound but not too prevalent. But the beautiful sound of this album is thanks to the many musicians joining her here, comprised of as the label puts it: “over a dozen Montreal players, including most of Thee Silver Mt. Zion (chiefly on string arrangements), as well as Nadia Moss (organ) and a corps of local drummers”. There is a good variation between the louder songs and the more quiet ones, providing the listener with a balanced listening experience, which evokes a wide range of emotions. The best example is the two songs, The Blue Room and Truth Is Dark Like Outer Space which provide a good contrast in terms of volume. Another aspect in this album are the more experimental tracks, where abstract and shapeless musical figures are brought to life (For The L'il Dudes, The Frozen Dress). Those give a somewhat eerie feel to the album, creating weird soundscapces and evoking grim pictures in my mind. The gloomy mood is even more intensified in Paper Kitten Claw with the slow rhythm and narration style sad vocals. But with the last track which is the title song, comes more of the great seemingly noise-making that I’m after lately. In a Diamanda style crying/speaking loudly Carla cries out while accompanied by a “mess” of percussions going on, and the rest of the lineup making sounds to match the non-apparent rhythm. This is a great song/declaration. The “noise” made is done wonderfully, manages to convey the emotions of the lyrics very well. The underlying organ playing (joins later on) is mesmerizing.

I did not so much enjoy each song individually (except for the title track), as I enjoy the experience of listening to this as a whole unified piece. There is no “wow” factor here. It’s about how the sounds hit my brain as I listen to them and how I am affected by them. In that aspect, this album manages to do what I think is its work and purpose – I want to listen to it again.
I’ll also definitely get the previous release on Constellation Records, the said Evangelista album.

This is terrific particularly since this is the sort of music I’ve been after lately. Music that challenges my perception of the usual, conjures images in my mind and has me mesmerized by the sounds I hear.

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