Zola Jesus' new album, Conatus, comes out Oct. 4.
Zola Jesus' new album, Conatus, comes out Oct. 4. Angel Ceballos
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.