Zola Jesus

Taiga

Mute

Oct 03, 2014 Issue #51 - September/October 2014 - alt-J Bookmark and Share


Over the course of Nika Roza Danilova's career as art pop maven Zola Jesuswhich includes a stretch of three critically-hailed full-length albums in three years before the age of 23the former philosophy student and Wisconsin native has cycled through abstracted, lo-fi industrial music (2009's The Spoils); chilly, off-kilter synth pop (2010's Stridulum II); and glitchy, distant electronica (2011's Conatus). Each turn of style never sounded ill-fitting; Danilova's songwriting, along with her gorgeously elemental voice, corralled these subtly disparate sonic textures under the sway of deceptively simple pop music. When she turned the rough edges of her back catalog into mini-symphonies on 2013's Versions, it's telling that not one of her songs lost any of its original power, but actually took on new dimensions and shades of depth through their transformation.

Versions was a palate-cleansing album if there ever was one, and now that Danilova has returned with her fourth full-length album Taigaa title that evokes an expansive, untamed snow-covered forestshe's used all the tools accrued over her career to craft an impressively versatile and sprawling goth pop album that's simultaneously her most adventurous and accessible to date. Lead single "Dangerous Days," for instance, uses a churning synth riff and ambient swaths of sound to build under Danilova's voice before exploding in the best hook she's ever written. The patient waltz of "Dust" evokes a '90s R&B slow jam recorded in an abandoned subway tunnel, full of ghostly, far-off vocals falling in and out of the mix and hydraulic hi-hats skittering away nervously. And finally, Danilova uses the rumbling low-end trip-hop of "Lawless" to seemingly reference the blared out electronics of rap producer du jour DJ Mustard (specifically YG's "I Just Wanna Party"). Danilova has said that Taiga feels like her "true debut" album, and that sense of discovery is palpable. Over the course of Taiga's 11 superlative tracks, Danilova has set the stage for a new phase in her career as Zola Jesus. (www.zolajesus.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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