Zola Jesus Zola JesusStridulum II
Zola Jesus is full of grace. So much, that it’s overwhelming. It is the overwhelming grace granted by knowing how to sing in a spectral, dramatic tone, how to string together punished verses, and having grown up surrounded by gloomy, inspiring forests in Wisconsin, having read Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and Dostoyevsky at too early an age, having sung opera when you are even younger, having a father who is a hunter, who used to hang deer’s heads in the trees, and what you were doing on a Friday night was reading the books that you had been collecting all week from the library, and that they made you want to become “a Renaissance woman.” A woman versed on all subjects, with an open mind, dedicated to everything.
For this reason, she says that she loves industrial music and melodic songs, and that her ideal is to bring together both things –the experimental and pop– in one song. She claims to respect and adore Danielle Dax, Björk, Kate Bush , and Debbie Harry equally. What she had offered so far, especially on her first album, “The Spoils” (Sacred Bones Records, 2009), was the more dark-wave, experimental, lo-fi and Gothic-appreciation part. Especially because of her voice, which sounds ultra-cavernous and howling, as if she had been closed in a partially-empty crypt and her voice were escaping through the openings between the niches. “Stridulum II”, which is the European version of the already-released “Stridulum EP” (Sacred Bones Records, 2010), to which three new songs have been added: “Tower,” “Sea Talk,” and “Lightsick”, is the pop part. Her voice sounds much clearer, more luminous. The verses, still notably dense and complex, are more direct. And the songs link together even more perfectly than in “The Spoils”. It’s hypnotic, sad, and moving. Especially because of how exposed the voice is. “Stridulum II” is an incredible album; it continues to be dark, sinister, and twisted, but is more fragile and vulnerable.
The Zola Jesus of “The Spoils” is frightening because she seems to know all of the horrors of the abyss. That of “Stridulum II” moves you by singing such simple verses as “When you're lost / Never look down / When you're lost / I'll be around.” The Zola of “The Spoils” was a girl with hair as black as a crow, who posed in shadows and under dead trees, and who proudly assured us that she only dressed in dark colours. That of “Stridulum II” has dyed her hair a white blond, and poses challengingly in the light, dressed in white. With songs like those of “Stridulum II”, you can imagine Zola Jesus like Julee Cruise, goth-pop sirens whispering and crackling verses that are twisted, but naïve on the stage of RR, the dive where equal amounts of evil and love were conceived in Twin Peaks, with the shadowy forests howling in the wind. Zola Jesus is full of grace. So much so, that if she keeps up like this, she’ll implode. And not even God knows what might happen. Marta Hurtado de Mendoza