Album Review: Contaus – Zola Jesus
Anyone who draws influence from 70’s movie scores, Phillip K Dick, opera and nihilistic literature for their musical project is alright by me. However this is just merely touching the surface of what makes Zola Jesus (real name Nika Roza Danilova) tick, deep, dark, gloomy and with a deep rooted emotional intensity she really is becoming a force to be reckoned with. Building on top of the success last years LP Stridulum II achieved, Danilova’s third studio album takes the core elements from its predecessor and makes them stronger.
Contaus like Zola Jesus herself is not for everybody, but I would recommend everybody give it a go at least once. Its by no means light but amidst its misty darkness there are multitude of levels that await you. The glitchy, sputtering electronic and industrial beats provide a somewhat edgy surface to her latest body of work, but its what lies beneath that really makes an impact. The moodier, cinematic atmospheres are what really embody Contaus. The low slung and subtle string work, the sombre piano riffs and the dark synth patterns really make for a pretty deep listening experience. But its the vocals which really seal the deal here, Zola’s classically trained voice has such depth and range. Her vocals has such a powerful presence on the album, it not only pushes the overall tone to the front and centre but gives it a soaring melodic uplift too. Couple this with haunting harmonies and simple yet genuine lyrics that pull on your heart strings and you can see how her voice is quite easily the deadliest weapon in her arsenal.
All of these aspects amount to one wonderful thing, the honest, beautiful and fully immersing duality of the album. Zola Jesus shows her self to be brave, confident and strong. Yet when you listen to the last two tracks on the album “Skin” and “Collapse” you get a clear and open view to how just like everybody else she is both fragile and vulnerable. The single line in Collapse “It hurts to let you in” is so straight forward yet it is loaded with completly relatable and raw emotion. Like Morrissey’s “I am human and I need to be loved” from “How Soon Is Now?” That particular line is so swiftly delivered yet resonates so deeply with its painful sincerity. Last years Stridilum II was good but Contaus is definetly a step up from that and the best thing is I can only see the work of Zola Jesus excelling even further. Deep, beautiful, haunting and harrowing with a strong body of musical work behind it Contaus, in my opinion at least is her best work to date.