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Zola Jesus

Valusia EP


[Sacred Bones; 2010]



By ; October 29, 2010 


Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Zola Jesus makes deep, cavernous music. Her Stridulum EP, released earlier this year, offers six pitch-black songs with only a basic melodic thread and Nika Roza Danilova’s operatic voice guiding a listener through. he creates these dark, misty worlds and she becomes a siren whose voice is marked more by victimhood than intimidation. “It’s not easy to fall in love,” she warns the listener on “I Can’t Stand,” “Cause in the end, you’re on your own.” Cymbals break, a choir soars, and it’s clear that Danilova is singing these words from experience.

See, Zola Jesus isn’t emo. She manages to capture romantic pan and mirror its emotional melodrama without seeming like she’s trying too hard. As was the case on Stridulum, Valusia sees the Wisconsin-born singer alchemize the hallmarks of 80s new wave and today’s witch-house tendencies. Here she also expands her instrumental horizons, but fans need not worry—she never strays from her comforting melancholy.

Opener “Poor Animal” sounds like a witch’s take on In Rainbows Radiohead, all canned strings and powerful singing and a rigorously driving beat. “Tower” lumbers through a synth-string chorus and a more guttural vocal performance. “Sea Talk,” meanwhile, is a bit more majestic, a brassy background, cathedral organ, and funeral-procession beat forcing the surprisingly chipper melody into something somber and determined. Fittingly, Danilova repeats that she “can’t give you what you need by myself.” She’s putting forth effort into her relationships, and the music reflects this romantic perseverance—forever optimistic but never complacent.

“Lightstick” sticks to spooky whistles and a Gothically-employed piano that resounds with organic gloom. Her booming voice sounds through the night (“when the lights go out”) over a thick, syrupy hook. After several tracks of synthy noise-pop, it’s refreshing to listen to Danilova use this basic instrumentation so effectively. And it serves as a final reminder of her vocal ability. She may struggle with confidence in her love life, but her music suffers not this problem; Zola Jesus is damn talented, and she knows it.


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