An epic lo-fi track from rising star Zola Jesus.
Atmospheric, haunting and adventurous, Vessel starts sparse; a piano with zipping electronic precussion -that instantly reminded me of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’- that sets the tone for 21-year old singer Nika Rosa Danilova. Her bewitching vocals preside over and into the track that conjour the powerful and gothic, a vibe that underpins artists like Souxsie & The Banshees, Florence & The Machine and Bat For Lashes, but adds an electro-industrial backdrop that I always felt was missing from the more recent artists.
Danilova’s singing background started with opera lessons which turned sour, leading her to experiment on her own with synths and sampling, but you can hear that voice reaching up and out, albeit confined to a darker and more intimate setting.
One for 70’s Italian horror films and all things dark and twisted, she lives in her character rather than creates it for the record labels, so the muso tag ‘Witch House’ that’s doing the rounds seems oddly insulting in this instance.
She was raised in darkest Wisconsin USA which she admits helped foster her individualism and even loner-like existense, the isolation bringing her creative freedom, rather than the hustle and nonsense of a city where that can easily get lost. Her alter-ego Zola Jesus was taken from, well obviously Jesus, but also French writer Émile Zola, in a conscious decision to alienate peers and leave her free to be herself personally and artistically.
Taken from an interview by Spinner she has this to say about her artistic self:
“I try to create songs that are really massive and intense, but at the same time remaining honest and raw. I love the feeling when you hear a song that is so overwhelming and powerful it makes your veins hurt. I’d like to write one of those songs one day. I keep the lyrics simple, no nonsense. I’ve always enjoyed the way old folk songs say what they need to say without becoming convoluted or ostentatious. Just words of wisdom straight from the heart of a little midwestern girl.”
She has recently toured with The xx and Fever Ray, and also performed at SXSW promotiong her last album Stridulum, which has now been updated and released as Stridulum II for greater exposure in the UK. The NME hails the album as a ‘dark masterpiece’ (my kind of album!), but this track is taken from the forthcoming third album ‘Conatus’ released in September, that promises to be a classically-tinged, epic wonder.