Conatus finds Nika Danilova, a.k.a. Zola Jesus, pushing the boundaries of her previous work to create an album filled with hauntingly beautiful songs. It also shows her taking a giant leap forward in production, with big arrangements in songs both fierce and fragile — and, for the first time, live string instruments.
As before, Danilova's operatic vocals remain front and center. Her classically trained voice is commanding, rich and silky. Each song overflows with emotion: dark and moody, yet buoyant. As dark as they may seem, the songs have the capacity to induce comfort, even jubilation.
Perhaps that's a product of the raw beauty and passion encapsulated in each track. "Vessels" starts and closes with a stuttering vocal effect; it ebbs and flows with surges of intoxicating intensity, riding above a bass-heavy drumbeat and reaching a crescendo of crashing sound by song's end. Violins add an eerie, otherworldly quality to "Hikikomori," while "Ixode" slowly builds in intensity, like a roller coaster climbing slowly, only to come barreling down the other side in an exhilarating rush. But every song on Conatus, out Oct. 4, shows this young artist carving out a fresh and formidable place for herself.
Zola Jesus' new album, Conatus, comes out Oct. 4.