Performer, musician, vocalist and composer Carla Bozulich frequently challenges her audiences, her listeners and musical boundaries/definitions. Bozulich's art is often unsettling. Her reputation as a provocateur goes back to the mid-’80s with the Los Angeles experimental noise band Ethyl Meatplow, and later with The Geraldine Fibbers, which featured guitarist Nels Cline (with whom Bozulich would eventually collaborate on the superb side project, Scarnella). However, it's easy to forget that she also has the ability to display a more tender side, albeit a rough-edged one. Her contributions to Mike Watt's debut solo 1994 recording Ball-Hog or Tug Boat?, or her 1998 duet with jazz legend Hadda Brooks ("Sometimes I'm Happy"), let alone her 2003 song-for-song rendition of Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger, exposed Bozulich's melodic and delicate tastes.
Her work with her current band, Evangelista, a core group with bassist Tara Barnes and recently added keyboardist Dominic Cramp, has allowed Bozulich to present both "sides" of her diverse (and sometimes opposing) musical nature. Evangelista's new release, Prince of Truth, technically their second under the banner name of Evangelista, is a powerfully beautiful, Homeric sonic voyage with a denser sound than the more stripped down debut, Hello, Voyager.
Evangelista's lazy Susan of musical guests, both familiar and new, include the aforementioned guitarist extraordinaire Cline, bassist Devon Hoff, drummer Ches Smith, percussionist Lisa Gamble, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor members Efrim Menuck (who recorded the sessions) and bassist Thierry Amar. Even though strong elements of their music derive from collaboration and improvisation, you still get the impression that this record is centered on Bozulich's commanding vision and voice. Her production and mixing on Prince of Truth preserve the nuances of each song, presenting a mixture of askew versions of waltzes, sea shantys and traditional songs with several cathartic blasts sprinkled in the mix.
Prince of Truth opens with the pummeling "The slayer," with Bozulich's vocal soaring over the top of a rising cacophony of instruments resembling a dirge or a deconstructed Black Metal song. The guitars are present, but the vocals and percussion provide the song's tension and power. Bozulich expands upon this, taking full advantage of space on the excellent slow numbers, such as the two contrabasses used for the dark "Iris didn't spell" and the minimal, noir-esque "Crack teeth," perhaps the most intriguing song on the record. A ghostly sea shanty, "On the captain's side," provides a fitting closing with co-vocals by Bozulich and Jessica Catron.
On what just may be Bozulich's finest recording to date, she has been able to successfully intermix the beauty and the unsettling -- both musically and emotionally. The way she balances those two spheres is simply astounding.