For Nika Roza Danilova, otherwise known as Zola Jesus, a wintry recording environment is a necessity, as the frigid backwoods of Wisconsin have translated directly to the icy and mysterious nature of her gothic dream-pop. On her newest album, “Conatus,” she transcends reality and composes songs for another time and place.
Zola Jesus is a leading lady in the blooming genre known as grave wave, a category of music that features ghostly synthesizers, deep bass and airy vocals. If Lady Gaga had even more emotional issues and was thrown into an echo chamber with a synthesizer, grave wave would be the end result.
On “Vessel,” Zola Jesus pays musical homage to Nine Inch Nails with her industrialized sound effects. Hammers clang against anvils as she wails over sparkling synthesizers. The machine grinds along until the wailing becomes even more intense and spooky.
Zola Jesus’ flair for the intriguingly dramatic allows her to create lofty cadences that build on each other until the bottom falls out and everything comes crashing down. Her surging electronica creates a delightfully dark groove.
“Ixode” features a steady dance baseline paired with rhythmic synthesizers. When combined, the two elements push the track forward to give it a sense of urgency. Zola Jesus uses vocal loops to create a layered effect so she can chant several different lines. The result is one chilling track of incomprehensible sound, but it effectively communicates emotion.
While the new album lacks a song that will push the artist into the public eye, “Conatus” is another strong release from Zola Jesus that will add to her reputation as a genre innovator within gothic indie circles.
4 out of 4 stars