New album by Zola Jesus: Growing with Failure

Zola Jesus combines gothic pop with classical elements. On her album “Arkhon” she deals with matters of power.

Zola Jesus with gothic pop Photo: Imago

“Arkhon”, the title of Zola Jesus’ new album, is an ambiguous term. Unless you are proficient in ancient Greek and already know: the word means power or rulers. In any case, the term musician, born Nika Rosa Danilova in 1989 in Phoenix, Arizona, in the southwestern United States, has a rather negative connotation. The American artist with German-Slovenian-Ukrainian roots had an unmistakable sense that people are often exposed to dark influences. They allow themselves to be corrupt instead of finding their true selves.

Thus, the opening song of their new work is called “Lost”. The text is about loss and utopia to rediscover yourself. The basis of the music is Slovenian choral vocals, which Zola Jesus came across on YouTube and sampled without further ado. Her distinctive voice, trained in opera singing, prevails.

The 33-year-old knows how to combine her classic roots with gothic pop. Sometimes she stacks huge walls of industrial noise with a Goth patina, and sometimes she demands sympathy from her partner in the simple piano song “Desire” at the end of the relationship.

What’s surprising is that despite all the gloom, their songs never sound huge. Because Zola Jesus definitely has a talent for melodies. Another advantage is her new sense of team spirit. For the first time, she sought technical assistants for the creative process with drummers Matt Chamberlain and Randall Dunn, who had made a name for himself as a primarily producer in the metal and indie scene. So you can act more spontaneously. At least sometimes.

Negative experiences can be empowering

Sometimes she quarreled with herself. Zola Jesus re-recorded her voice role in “Fall” before finally returning to beta. She had the right energy for her introspective self-analysis. She sings “I’ll have a fall.” “Give me everything.” Further in the text, the speaker takes the blame for the failure of an affair, but still looks forward with the phrase “crossing the abyss / to something new.” According to the motto: It can also enhance negative experiences.

Zola Jesus: “Arkhon” (Holy Bones/Cargo)

Zola Jesus often listens to herself, her nicknames leave no doubt about this. In the shimmering “tone” she deals with her intuition. It’s quite possible that her gut feeling was honed a bit during her childhood, when her parents moved her from Phoenix to a 100-acre country farm in Wisconsin. There were few sources of distraction there, so the teen indulged in music at home while she was in college.

Zola Jesus was passionate about fiddling with keyboards, drums, and other instruments. She released her debut album, “The Spoils” in 2009, when she was still studying philosophy and French at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Meanwhile, Zola Jesus is focusing on her music. She is repeatedly compared to Kate Bush – because of her extraordinary voice.

Quiet moments of goosebumps

In “Into the Wild” she shines with crystal clarity, in the gloomy “Dead and Gone” she shines longing and gloom. On orchestral arrangements for violinist Louise Woodward. In “Stitched,” the singing voices easily stick themselves against the hustle and bustle of industrial rock. Tracks like “False” show how important the drums are to this album. Matt Chamberlain, who has already worked with David Bowie and Bob Dylan and is a regular member of Tori Amos’ live band, sets the tone here.

Finally, Zola Jesus adheres to traditional song compositions. She quietly delivers goosebumps, and she also has annoying crackers in her purse. Sometimes she looks like Florence Welch’s gothic sister, other times she’s reminiscent of Dead Can Dance band Lisa Gerard. There is one thing Zola Jesus cannot deny: her proven taste.

The fact that it has now reached a little deeper into the box of possibilities does not change the perfect interaction of the individual elements. With her sixth album, Zola Jesus remains on the cutting edge of music and singing.

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