Composers: Francesco Guerri; Tara Barnes; Efrim Manuel Menuck; Dominic Cramp; John Eichenseer; Nels Cline; Shahzad Ismaily; Sam Mickens.
Recording information: The Montalvo Center For The Arts.
Arrangers: Francesco Guerri; Tara Barnes; Efrim Manuel Menuck; Dominic Cramp; John Eichenseer; Nels Cline; Shahzad Ismaily; Sam Mickens; Carla Bozulich.
Over three previous albums, Evangelista, fronted by songwriter Carla Bozulich, has made music that is difficult to classify. Using everything from guitars and drums to purposely constructed atmospheres, improvisation, cabaret music, and virtually any medium that will fit a particular composition, Evangelista has frustrated and delighted critics and fans alike. On In Animal Tongue, they take this to an extreme by creating an album of angular, visceral compositions and minimal elements that create expansive textures and atmospheres. The core trio of Bozulich, Tara Barnes, and Dominic Cramp are all here, joined by guests that include Shahzad Ismaily, Sam Mickens, John Eichenseer, Janel Leppin, and Ches Smith, among others. "Artificial Lamb" is perhaps the most conventional "song" here. Bozulich delivers a witchy, incantatory vocal in a tune about spirituality as love and lust (a prevalent theme throughout), Mickens' plucked electric guitar acts as a pulse, and Eichenseer's synth and effects insert themselves inside her lyrics. "Black Jesus" juxtaposes the sacred and the brazenly sexual with its brooding, minimal soundscapes created by Mickens' guitar and Bozulich's bass. It's the latter's half-sung, half-spoken vocal that creates the dramatic tension of an intoxicating eros in the tune's heart. "Hands of Leather" is positively ebullient by comparison, with Bozulich and Barnes singing in harmony on the chorus, three sets of clapping hands underscored by a drum act as percussion in creating a rhythm around a sketchy guitar that plays a lilting, near-nursery rhyme melody. "Tunnel to the Stars" is the most extreme track here with its dissonant strings juxtaposed against a minimal vocal monologue about domination and desire in the realm of body politics and sexual imagination. "Enter the Prince" walks a line between a fractured blues and sonic experiment as samples, a record player, viola, guitar, and cello frame the singer in a cryptic observation of seduction, pleasure, and power. The set closes with "Hatching," using percussion, viola, piano, organ, and double bass in a primal explosion of sound that reflects the viscera and violence in the cut's title with only a few confounding words near the end by Bozulich. In Animal Tongue is not an easy listen, but it wasn't meant to be. Rather it investigates, explores, and experiments to open-ended conclusions, and to that end, it succeeds magnificently. ~ Thom Jurek