Live Music + Gig Reviews

Carla Bozulich @ Luminaire, London

23 October 2006

Carla Bozulich is a unique force in modern music. Imagine someone with Patti Smith‘s intensity, and a really rich-timbered, well-trained voice, and you begin to understand her promise.

We only heard a few minutes of solo performer Tam‘s slowly mounting guitar gloom. His mastery of the instrument was certainly superior to his vocals, and he had on a nice brown shirt and looked cute, and we could certainly have stood to hear more of his material.

HRSTA, like Bozulich, flick between cacophonous noise experiments and regularly structured songs. Each of their five pieces began with mounting sounds which sometimes resolved themselves into melodies and sometimes didn’t. They faced a restless audience – one man seemed more interested in reading his novel, while another was so struck by their first few notes he threw up in his pint.

A multi-instrumental three-piece (Italian drummer Allesio Boasi played clarinet and recorder between puffs on his cigarette), they gamely performed, temple bells, kitchen sink and all. They had no sense of putting on a performance, and the lead singer, who sounded like Emo Phillips’ saggier cousin, sang badly about nothing of import.

And yet two of same people who returned as part of Carla Bozulich’s performance of not dissimilar material, were fantastic. It really demonstrated Bozulich’s ability not only to write more cohesive experimental music, but also to rivet a shuffling audience.

A petite figure in an ill-fitting ’60s prom dress, clutching the garish green and yellow Bugs Bunny toy she uses to distort her voice for certain numbers, she solved the small stage problem by gathering up the microphone cable and branching out into the audience for a haunting, confrontational rendition of Baby That’s The Creeps, having first leapt from the stage into the arms of a burly bloke in the front row.

It seemed to be the clever way to deal with the audience, defying people not to respond to her screams and whispers, encouraging them to join in during a terrific cover of Low‘s Pissing.

Carla Bozulich first came to the music press’s notice a couple of years ago, after years on the LA experimental scene with bands such as Ethel Meatplough and the Geraldine Fibbers, when she recorded Willie Nelson’s entire Red-Headed Stranger album, note for note. She then fortuitously teamed up with Nels Cline. Off the back of this some people (especially the Scottish heckler at the bar) had obviously come expecting Willie Nelson ballads. And indeed, she delighted with several of her own which are certainly informed by her country interests.

However this was the Evangelista tour, and she stuck to playing backwards through the majority of the songs. Beginning with Evangelista II and climaxing with the Evangelista itself, it’s safe to say she bagged a few converts along the way.

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More on Carla Bozulich
Carla Bozulich @ Café OTO, London
Carla Bozulich @ Luminaire, London