alternative ambient electronica indie music review singer songwriter

Zola Jesus – Conatus Review

Sneaking in as #10 in my top albums for 2010 – Zola Jesus was an entirely new singer/songwriter to me late on last year. Conatus was her release that pushed her into spotlight.

The atmospheric “Swords” slides you into her industrial clinic electronic before “Avalanche” introduces you to Zola’s sumptuous voice that cuts like a knife but also it holds a certain depth. Matched with the darkness of the ambient electronic swirling around you it feels like a much darker Cocteau Twin vibe, or should you say Lisa Gerrard is an Angel, Zola would be the devil. The Cocteau vibe hits hardest with “Vessel” where the song flickers and merges on vocal loops over itself into a blurred frenzy in a fantastic stand out single.

“Hikikomori” is a builder track where the keyboards and vocals slowly build over the same few chords and patterns to its triumphant finale before “Ixode”‘s pumping kick beat turns the dark dampness of the depths of Zola’s soul into a mild dance track. You don’t necessarily understand what is being sung but it’s like emotion is being transposed into a vocal sound. It feels strangely enlightening. “Seekir” takes this one step further with a more straightforward dance-esque track full of lifeless instrumentation and Zola’s flowing voice soaring over the top.

“In Your Nature” for some unknown reason reminds me of a 90’s M-People track Zola style! It’s has a hook that’s actually quite joyous and harmonious and is the first really uplifting song with its strident beat and chords. “Like The Palm of the Burning Handshake” is a very broken and disjointed track which does work well but takes a couple of listens to appreciate it’s very stilted approach to piano playing and keyboard synths. The ending section is very anthemic though and makes up for it if you’re not a fan of that style of song. “Shivers” is a wonderfully constructed track of mini percussive elements of clicks and scrapes before an insanely catchy chorus takes over. A personal highlight.

“Skin” is a very minimal piano / vocal / cymbal shimmering track that is delicate, eerie and beautiful before the album closes with “Collapse” which is like a buzzing healing energy that washes over the rest of the album to try and cleanse all the hurt that you’ve travelled through to get there.

“Conatus” is in many ways a simple album. The songs have a similar sound, structure and poise. It’s the overall feeling and setting of everything though that makes the album far more than the sum of its parts. It’s uplifting, its dank, its a bloodied scream of pain that calls you in like a siren. That is Zola Jesus.

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