Carla Bozulich @ The Spitz
The Spitz. 06jun07.
It’s a humid summer’s evening here in London, and certainly in the Spitz’s penthouse venue. Bobb Bruno’s first act is one of defiance in the face of the casual stickiness; pulling up the flap of his teddy-bear-eared hoodie. Later on, a brief solo sees him hammer the electronic drum-pads like a death metal veteran, clearly earning his sweaty spurs.
Bobb Bruno is Carla Bozulich’s flat-mate. Shahzad Ismaily is another of her old chums. Tonight she eschews her usual full-band approach in favour of a haphazardly-gathered trio, of which the afore-mentioned are the other two. As she tours Europe picking up colleagues old and new en-route, she reaches London on a tour that is centred around a long holiday visiting friends and recording in Italy. There is an album, 2006’s ‘Evangelista’, to promote, but that is merely an afterthought. Yours, and as it turned out mine, for a tenner.
Her entire re-recording of Willie Nelson’s ‘Red Headed Stranger’ may have picked her up a few country types tonight, while one couple in the crowd cheer with uncontained delight at her performance of a Geraldine Fibbers number (Bozulich was head Fibber), so one might question how they would take to her pushing at the dirgecore envelope in such noir-ish a fashion. Tonight is about sonic exploration, but there appears to be no let up in the adoration.
There is a roominess in the love, almost unconditional, that allows her voice to filter through the speaker of a Playschool microphone, into the pick-ups of her guitar and out again, and for no-one to bat an eyelid. It sounds like Mum & Dad (that being the band rather than an arbitrary set of parents), or like Doris Day vinyl being melted down for new Diamanda Galas LP’s. Perhaps it is as you might expect from someone who counts Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Silver Mt. Zion members not only as friends, but as contributors to the dark machine that is ‘Evangelista’.
Of course, what sets Carla apart, is that incredible voice, capable of holding a low-note that growls and fizzes like burning meat; capable of drawling like a sun-pickled tramp; capable of capturing an emotion, shaking it, and throwing it mercilessly against a window. She echoes, at different points, Patti Smith at her most visceral and strong, PJ Harvey (if given to chewing the odd bit of straw), Kate Bush lost in a gospel-spasm and maybe Stevie Nicks collapsing into untameable manic depression.
The voice is powerful as an ox, but vulnerable as a stray kitten. A couple of examples. 1. She buffets Ismaily whilst he plays keys, pulling him off-kilter, which he runs with, and from this horseplay she unties a shamanistic vocal trance from way down in her glottis. 2. Earlier in the set she calls out “Can you feel…LIFE’S BLOOD!!!” as though frenzied, but yet whilst dancing like an internally distracted four year old.
Tonight is about many aspects: trapped hymns; murder drones caught in a cyclone (thrown in the spin through jagged, startling KLANGS and arresting country-croon yelps); creaking-door ghostics; base mechanics and, amidst it all, a haphazard pirouette around the mic-stand that unleashes Carla’s confrontationally bleak avant-soul.