Saturday, December 3, 2011

Zola Jesus- Conatus

You know an album is good when it grows on you with every listen. The same can be said about certain musicians with every time you listen to one of their songs. Both are how I feel about Zola Jesus and her latest album Conatus. From the very first time I heard about Zola Jesus I was intrigued. Not just because of her awesome name, but because of what she sounded like.

Around 2009 I first heard about Zola Jesus when my indie and hipster friends told me to check out this “mesmerizing and sensational” experimental rock and synthpop songstress. Even though she delivers a goth rock sound most of the time, Zola Jesus is able to capture your soul with a unique voice that is unlike most singers you come across. Earlier this year I wrote an article about record stores and vinyl for my college magazine Scene at CSUN and visited about 30 stores to compose my piece about how popular vinyl remains. When I visited one particular store, Origami Vinyl, located near the Silver Lake neighborhood in Echo Park next door to The Echo and Echoplex, I was blown away with the gigantic section they had on Zola Jesus. I tried to remain as objective as I could, but I gave into temptation and purchased several vinyls and 7” singles including two Zola Jesus records.

Speaking of vinyl, that’s another remarkable thing about Zola Jesus. She fully utilizes technology to her full advantage and sounds even more amazing on vinyl. I can guarantee if you love goth rock and experimental rock you will love Zola Jesus on vinyl because she was made to be heard on that format.

Synths, drum machines and the dark sexy voice of Zola Jesus propels her third album Conatus to a whole new level in this stylized and sensational album. For Zola Jesus fans this is the exact kind of record you would expect from her and for those unfamiliar with her, this is a great record to be introduced. At times there is a sense Zola Jesus is all over the place experimenting with electronica, industrial, and synthpop, but somehow each song compliments one another.

Other artists similar to Zola Jesus include L.A. Vampires, Former Ghosts, Burial Hex, Austria, Joy Division, Nika + Rory, Dead Can Dance and the Cocteau Twins. Just imagine if Throbbing Gristle and Oingo Boingo had a baby with Siouxsie Sioux (of Siouxsie & The Banshees, you would get Zola Jesus.

Zola Jesus is not afraid to express her dark side and she perfectly propels her philosophy throughout Conatus and as the title of her latest effort implies, she is ever-changing. The first track “Sword” sets you up on the bizarre adventure you will take with all the mechanical noises of drum machines. Jesus’ powerful and emotional voice creates a dramatic, distant song in “Avalanche,” which sets the tone for the remaining songs on Conatus.

The industrial “Vessel” proves she can create abstract music without forfeiting her personal style to create tension-filled music. Jesus’ passion oozes throughout “Vessel” and gives a fresh, raw approach unlike most of her early material. Zola Jesus has found her voice by relying on the darkness within.

Track number four, “Hikikomori” is another sublime single with an edgy sound like “Vessel.”
The infectious beats in “Ixode” make it another memorable song, much like “Seekir.” Besides “Vessel,” my second favorite song on this album is “In Your Nature,” which begins off like a classical song filled with pulsating dance beats. To be perfectly honest I wish there was more music that infused classical and dance together in such a complimentary way.

The luring “Lick The Palm Of The Burning Handshake,” startling “Shivers,” the piano ballad “Skin” and the beautifully bleak “Collapse” make up the rest of the album. If you purchase the album from iTunes, there is an awesome bonus track “Days Grow Older.” If you’re willing to submit to the darkness and become one with your soul, Zola Jesus will take you to the Promised Land with one of the year’s top ten albums of 2011!


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