Carla Bozulich & Francesco Guerri @ Café Oto
Carla Bozulich & Francesco Guerri
Dalston Café Oto. 03may10.
Each time Carla Bozulich brings her Evangelista band to the UK, it is rarely with the exact same personnel. This tour is a little different still, seeing her on equal billing with the cellist Francesco Guerri. The fact that they used to group themselves under the name Bloody Claws might give a few clues as to the coarseness of the music. Guerri bows and plucks with free-improvisational dexterity, whilst Carla works over her guitar and effect pedals to parade a dissonant, abrasive blare.
These passages, it might be fair to say, can meander a bit, particular when both Carla and Francesco, at various points in a set attacked at the shins by technical issues, are forced to cover the frantic swapping of leads and desperate sound-seeking strum of the other with some hectic noise on the fly.
When it works, it’s powerful stuff but, as with any Carla Bozulich performance, it is when she opens her mouth to sing that the performance really comes alive, and particularly when it is just her voice in unison with Guerri’s innovative, thorny playing. In this duo scenario, one might suggest she ditch the guitar altogether, as the best moments, and some of the more inelegant ones, happen when it is sitting untouched at the back of the stage.
Without it hanging from her neck, Carla instead trails the mic around as she weaves in and out of the crowd. One initial foray ends awkwardly as she catches an ankle on her foot monitor and falls dramatically backwards, like David Jason through an open hatch.
This does not curtail the abandon of her movement though as she continues to venture out, commandeering chairs, pirouetting like a toddling ballerina lost in a daydream or leaning her entire body weight onto the back of one chap sat in the front row whilst unleashing the full callused power of her vocal range.
When fully flaunted, it is like a feral growl contained in a rickety cage; burnt yet eager, sharing the kind of ragged timbre one might associate with the Rev. C.L. Franklin as he looms over a pulpit roaring the gospel. It is torch singing as though from the gaping mouth of a fiery apocalypse.
Whether layered over cello drone, guitar spite or just unaccompanied, Carla Bozulich as a performer and as a vocalist is arresting, spell-binding and not a little haunting.
pic: Carla Bozulich (Evangelista) playing at Café Oto in October 2009