There’s been a lot, a Lot, A LOT of buzz about Zola Jesus. And I agree that she deserves every compliment, every applause, and every dollar exchanged for her wonderful art. She is something special. I mean, she’s one of those rare artists that you hear and are immediately hooked. I boldly say, and am prepared to defend my statement if anyone challenges it, that she has the best voice ever…EVER. Seriously.
So, now that you’re rolling your eyes, letting out a big sigh, and asking, Dave, what are you talking about, let me tell you what makes her so extraordinary. First, I admire who she is and how she got here. Nika Roza Danilova (Zola Jesus’ real name) started taking opera-singing lessons when she was seven or eight and kept studying it on and off for about ten years. She is now twenty-one and is currently studying French and Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin. However, she wants to close the chapter on her studies "as soon as possible" so that she can devote every waking moment to her art. It is so refreshing to meet an artist who is original in making her own mix and being completely novel. She takes a classical approach to music like opera and throws it in amid a bunch of noise effects. Second, her dedication is extraordinary. She is so passionate for what she does. She can’t wait to get out of school and keep opening doors and raising windows to explore other realms of her musical potential. Third, she is an unforgettable artist. She is astonishing at what she does.
I’ve heard her style described as “no-fi” and “neo-wave,” well, whatever. Yes, it’s lo-fi, yes, it’s got a minimal synth wave thing, yes, it’s got a neofolk thing. But, I think the best way to describe it is as some kind of darkwave, lo-fi, post-industrial blend. It’s got a poppy noise quality to it, kind of like Cold Cave, but it is much more gothic in essence. The best part though, besides the noisy beats, the charming piano, and haunting echoes is Nika’s own stunning voice. I don’t know how else to describe it but as beautiful. It’s loveliness, splendor, and refuge for your ears. I get chills listening to her. Her operatic vibrato is awesome and completely otherworldly. I can’t get enough of “Smirenye,” the seventh track on “The Spoils.” I’ve been known to repeat this track over and over and over and over and…well, you get the idea. If I don’t repeat that track right away then I’ll let it play into “Clay Bodies,” the following track, which most folks would consider as the stand out track. Then I’d repeat the pair over and over and over…I think I just might do that right now.
Okay, I’m back. “The Spoils” itself is an awesome record to own. If you own this bad boy then you already have a lot of Zola Jesus’ discography under your belt. You see, this is a collection of various hard to find releases, like the “Poor Sons” EP and “Soeur Sewer” EP, and some previously unreleased material. I mean, there are 15 songs here. That’s a lot. Essential in every way. Go to YouTube when you’re done reading this and watch her “Clay Bodies” video. It’s a great video. An even better song.
Thank you, Nika, for your huge contributions to the art community. My only wish is that you would keep it up. 10/10 -- Dave Miller (9 June, 2010)