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Alternative & Indie - Released September 8, 2017 | Sacred Bones Records

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Martial synthesizers, cathedral echoes and tribal drums, Nicole Hummel aka Zola Jesus knows how to set up her very own scenery in only a few seconds. The American’s world could rapidly fall into the depressing or the claustrophobic, but no. Like its predecessors, this fifth album is riveting from the very first measures. A bit less pop than some recent productions and openly looking towards her first recordings, Okovi allows her voice to free itself a bit more of her influences (loosely, Lisa Gerrard, Björk, Kate Bush, Liz Fraser and Siouxsie) to further impose her solemnity. Especially since this 2017 vintage is probably her most personal one. In the grip of a certain malaise, Zola Jesus finds here a magnificent outlet, without ever wallowing in self-pity. It’s a kind a dark and beautiful meditation that is masterfully produced. © CM/Qobuz

Alternative & Indie - Released August 29, 2017 | Sacred Bones Records

Alternative & Indie - Released August 3, 2017 | Sacred Bones Records

Alternative & Indie - Released July 11, 2017 | Sacred Bones Records

Alternative & Indie - Released September 18, 2015 | Mute

Alternative & Indie - Released February 9, 2015 | Mute

Alternative & Indie - Released November 17, 2014 | Mute

Alternative & Indie - Released October 6, 2014 | Mute

On the surface, Taiga is easily Zola Jesus' most accessible album. With each release, Nika has peeled away the layers of noise blanketing her music; Versions, her orchestral collaboration with J.G. Thirlwell, also reflected her sound's increasing refinement. Taiga boasts her most honed palette of sounds yet, fusing brass and strings with beats and synths into a majestic yet poignant sound that recalls Björk's Homogenic, especially on the stately title track and "Hunger"'s frantic rhythms. Emphasizing her biggest strengths -- her huge voice, ringing melodies, and thoughtful lyrics -- should take Taiga to new heights, and at times it does. She embraces her newfound pop side wholeheartedly, and many moments suggest that this transformation holds promise. It's more than a little remarkable how well she harnesses her power into songs with clearly delineated hooks and choruses: "Dangerous Days" is equally glowering and joyous, echoing Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" with its galloping beat as well as the moody electropop Sia took to the top of the charts earlier in 2014. Meanwhile, "Dust"'s slinky rhythms and brass combine R&B and classical leanings into something bewitching. However, too often Taiga's polarized sound -- which alternates between sparse and full-blast with little in between -- becomes monotonous, and sometimes Nika's voice is almost too intense, like the musical equivalent of staring directly into the sun. Each track here is powerful individually, but as a group they tend to diminish each other; this is particularly true on the album's second half, where songs such as "Hollow" feel oppressive instead of dramatic. It's notable that Nika was often more vulnerable when separated from her listeners by swaths of distortion on previous albums than she is on Taiga, though she does provide respites with more delicate moments like "Lawless" and the uniquely confessional "Ego." Even if it's not her most intimate work -- especially compared with how effortlessly she balanced big and little moments on Conatus -- Taiga allows Nika to be inventive and craft some some stunningly beautiful moments along the way. ~ Heather Phares
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 6, 2014 | Mute

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 24, 2014 | Mute

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 8, 2014 | Mute

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 14, 2014 | Mute

Alternative & Indie - Released August 20, 2013 | Sacred Bones Records

When Zola Jesus' Nika Roza Danilova was approached to perform at the Guggenheim at the close of her Conatus tour, she chose Foetus' J.G. Thirlwell to help her arrange her songs for the Mivos Quartet. It's a fitting collaboration; they're both artists with industrial music roots and a willingness to expand far beyond them. Thirlwell's versatility is well known, both with Foetus and in projects that span sound sculptures to scoring Adult Swim's Venture Brothers series. While Danilova's career isn't that wide-ranging (yet), she welcomes change on every album and particularly on Conatus, where she further refined her mix of dark and hopeful sounds. On Versions, the pair lets the melodic beauty of Danilova's songs emerge from their often noisy cocoons, and the results sound stronger and braver than might be expected. Thirlwell is a sympathetic and detail-oriented arranger, adding gently tumbling strings as Danilova sighs "and it all falls down" on "Avalanche (Slow)" and occasional discordant notes on the striking, previously unreleased "Fall Back" that brilliantly express the unease that can hide in sweeping romantic gestures like this. As on Conatus, Versions explores strength in vulnerability. The nakedness of Danilova's voice and words brings her songs' poignancy into sharp focus, especially on tracks such as "Night" and "Collapse," both of which have an aching beauty that evokes This Mortal Coil's "Song to the Siren." The album also offers more examples of the ongoing dialogue between Danilova and her work; this is the third version of "Sea Talk" to appear on a Zola Jesus album, and the most hopeful-sounding rendition yet. Likewise, she imbues the Conatus highlight "In Your Nature" with an anthemic thrust that gives the song's fatalistic sentiments a strange but welcome uplifting quality. While Versions may be too tasteful-seeming for die-hard fans of early Zola Jesus, the album's undeniable beauty reveals another accomplished facet to Danilova's music. ~ Heather Phares

Alternative & Indie - Released July 21, 2009 | Sacred Bones Records

Alternative & Indie - Released June 30, 2009 | Sacred Bones Records