“Swing to me…you…and you….and you”. We’re one song into Carla Bozulich’s set, and already she is amongst the crowd, howling in our faces. The intensity of her recent albums was playing out in front of us, lyrics about desperate and dangerous obsession tossed amongst fractured soundscapes which themselves seemed to evoke mental anguish. Midway through “Evangelista I” she threw herself into one of very few empty chairs in Cafe Oto and clung onto a young man in the front row, holding onto him as if he was the only thing keeping her head above the building waves. He looked absolutely terrified.
Joining Bozulich in creating these dark backdrops was violinist John Eichenseer, and Zu bassist Massimo Pupillo, the former adding discordant scrapes of his strings, the latter attacking his instrument with a teaspoon. The whorl of noise would occasionally settle into something song-like; Willie Nelson’s “Hand On The Wheel” (first line: “at a time when the world seems to be spinnin’ hopelessly out of control”) even emerged from the shadows, as did a (new?) piece called “E! Talons”, in which Bozulich imagined herself as a hawk, swooping down on terrified young men in the front row at experimental music venues. These would ultimately break apart, the materials being used for some of the looser, more improvisational pieces, Pupillo beating out huge, Sunn-like drone from his instrument during “The Frozen Dress”, while Bozulich hissed into a children’s toy microphone. The set was neatly bookended with “Evangelista II”. “Swing to me…swing to me…my love” Carla whispered, the words fading into silence along with the last rumble of Pupillo’s bass. They both stood, head bowed, eyes closed, flooding the deep silence with tension, before finally the facade cracked with a giggle from Carla. “It ended”, she said, the storm clouds dissipating in the Dalston sky.