Zola Jesus' Okovi: Additions LP offers a new angle on her 2017 album, Okovi. The collection pairs four previously unreleased songs from the Okovi sessions with four remixes by a diverse cast of artists. Johnny Jewel turns "Ash to Bone" into a late-night cinematic torch song, Tri Angle composer Katie Gately's "Siphon" is a dark choir of warping angels, black metal band Wolves in the Throne Room's take on "Exhumed" makes the pounding industrial anthem even denser and heavier, and Toronto producer Joanne Pollock (formerly one half of Poemss with Venetian Snares' Aaron Funk) makes "Soak" feel like an aching classical standard- until it starts warping in on itself and goes somewhere else entirely.
Nika Roza Danilova has been recording music as Zola Jesus for more than a decade. For the majority of that time, she's been on Sacred Bones Records, and Okovi marks her reunion with the label. Fittingly, the 11 electronics-driven songs on Okovi share musical DNA with her early work on Sacred Bones. The music on this record was written in pure catharsis, and as a result, the sonics are heavier, darker, and more exploratory. In addition to the contributions of Danilova's longtime live bandmate Alex DeGroot, producer/musician WIFE, cellist/noise-maker Shannon Kennedy from Pedestrian Deposit, and percussionist Ted Byrnes all helped build the textural universe of these songs.
Above all, Zola Jesus has crafted a profound meditation on loss and reconciliation that stands tall alongside the great works of its genre. Okovi speaks of tragedy with great wisdom and clarity. Its songs plumb dark depths, but they reflect light as well.
"Seven years ago, it was winter break at university in Madison, Wisconsin. There was a snowstorm that covered the city with a still white haze. Not a single person in the streets. I was sitting on my bed with a cheap keyboard and a computer, screaming into the void.I barely remember writing the songs. It was a chaotic point in my life. I had no time to think about process or intent. It was a purge. I do remember taking a break from recording, bundling up, and walking through the barren streets while listening to the demos I'd made. The world, at once, felt clear.These songs were a huge leap of faith back then. It was my first time singing without layers of distortion, echo, and reverb. It was the first time I peeled back the layers to find out what was at the core. I'm still on that path today, seeing how far I can push myself into unknown places, whether through clarification or destruction. It’s like Stridulum's still here with me, underneath it all."-Nika Roza Danilova, June 2017
On the heels of her Conatus world tour, Nika Roza Danilova was offered an opportunity to perform at one of the most prestigious modern art museums in the world, NY’s Guggenheim. Rather than doing her standard Zola Jesus electronic set she decided she wanted to work with a classical composer who could arrange her songs for a quartet. She recruited legendary industrial pioneer JG Thirlwell (Foetus) to do the arrangements. If there is a common thread to Thirlwell’s varied musical styles, it is dramatic intensity and evocative, cinematic quality. Thirlwell’s bredth of experience in experimental and classical music makes him the perfect collaborator to help realize Danilova’s vision
The show went over amazingly well with the Village Voice proclaiming that Zola Jesus “conquered the Guggenheim”. Removing the bulk of electronics from these songs gives them the space to breath, thusly opening them up to be received by a much wider audience who perhaps don’t normally venture into the techno-pop/ industrial arena.
It is our honor to present the “first and only official authorized Zola Jesus remix”, In Your Nature, as heard through the ears of David Lynch. We gave Mr. Lynch a copy of her album Conatus and let him pick which track he wanted to work with. He chose a track that we felt already had single potential and replaced the tension building string patches with intricately crafted guitar parts orchestrated and performed by himself and music assistant Dean Hurley. What was once a dance track becomes a lurching cinematic masterpiece. The beat is slowed to a crawl, drum and synth patches removed entirely, and what is left is something perhaps closer to the nature of Zola Jesus than we ever could have hoped for.
In the last three years Nika Roza Danilova has gone from being an outsider experimental teenage noise-maker to a full fledged internationally celebrated electronic pop musician. It was a huge feat to accomplish, and despite her age (young), her geography (mid-western, desolate), her accelerated scholastic requirements (high school and college were completed in three years each) and her diminutive physical size (4”11, 90 lbs) she has triumphed. She has emerged as a figurehead-- a self-produced, self-designed, self-taught independent woman.
Conatus is a huge leap forward in production, instrumentation and song structure. It says it all in the definition of the title: the will to keep on, to move forward. From thumping ballads to electronic glitch, no sound goes unexplored on her new record. It is an icy exploration in refined chaos and controlled madness, an effort to break through capability and access a sonic world that crumbles as it shines.
Saying the last six months have been a whirlwind for our brightest young artist would certainly be a bit of an understatement. In addition to turning 21 successfully, by the time you read this, she will have also graduated college with a double major, and left her home of Wisconsin for the significantly less flat pavement of Los Angeles. But beyond the collegiate and personal milestones, Zola Jesus has attained some crucial career milestones since her last EP as well. She will be heading out on her first proper tours this fall, (three of them back-to-back, actually) supporting Fever Ray and Xiu Xiu abroad and The xx stateside. Don't worry there will be plenty of headline shows sprinkled throughout as well, and yes, most of the shows will be with the full band.
She has also worked with a producer (Chris Coady) for the first time, the fruits of which labor appear here on the first track, "Poor Animal." Gone are the morose, gothic lo-vibes and in their place is an airy almost dance track that still sounds as true to form as other endeavor Danilova has ever undertaken. An old hit and recent show-stopper live track, "Seatalk" has been re-recorded as well and this new well mic'd version is breathtakingly good. There will be a video coming for that soon too. Closer, "Lightsick" is a straight piano ballad. Not synth, real piano. And for her darker fans, "Tower" still has that Mad Maxian apocalypse creep we know and love. To top it all off, we've gone ahead and completely 180'd the harsh chocolate artwork of Stridulum to present you with a softer, gentler, blonder ZJ as photographed by her mother in the woods near their home.
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