Zola Jesus is the stage name of one Nika Roza Danilova, the Wisconsin-born Russian-blooded, white-haired twenty-four-year-old with the big operatic voice. For the past several years, Danilova has released several critically acclaimed records, where as Zola Jesus, Danilova created sinisterly enchanting music. Making use of goth-themes and heavy electronic reverbs, Zola Jesus‘ three released records cast her as a modern day Kate Bush and have the ability to get in your skin with their tension-filled gravitas. Beneath all the shadows however, you can hear the beauty within the songs. And that is what makes Zola Jesus‘ work so magical – the satisfaction of finding something pure within the darkness. Her last two records were among my favorites.
Danilova has decided to do something different with her newest record Versions though. After a chance encounter with Australian composer and producer J.G. Thirwell following a Zola Jesus performance at the Guggenheim Museum, Danilova had a moment of clarity. She decided that she wanted to rework some of her old songs, but this time, to highlight their bare essentials by working with (only) a string quartet. The result is a new way of hearing Zola Jesus songs. By stripping the songs of their electronic components, the pure beauty within is highlighted. Yes, the contrast might be gone, but you get to experience the remaining light in its full glory. Versions then, as the name implies, is a new stripped-down version of old Zola Jesus songs filtered through lens of more classic trappings. Given Danilova’s operatic training background, this seems entirely fitting and equally as satisfying.
Stream the only new song from Versions, Fall Back, embedded below.
Zola Jesus – Versions comes out 8/20 via Sacred Bones (order here)