Just last week I was at a YouTube panel for Indie Horror Film makers, and in retrospect, I feel like Nika Roza Danilova aka Zola Jesus would have loved it. Not only did I read that in a 2011 interview with German Rolling Stone (fantastic piece by idol Joachim Hentschel, if you know the language/you ask Google translate to help a brother out), if you ever listened her angst-ridden, ingeniously versatile electronic pop, you can hear it in every tune struck.
It was back in June when the 25-year-old songstress announced her fifth album Taiga with blog-bible Pitchfork, and let numerous dark boys and girls’ hearts beat faster. Her hair is dyed dark again, contrary to her style during her previous record Conatus, but the clean cuts, the clear imagery is still there. Nika is still the same person, exploring humanity’s darkest emotions, wrapped in a beautiful silky cloth of Joy Division’s New Wave and Kate Bush and Björk’s Art Rock. The titles alone promise a soul-searching of the uncomfortable sort: Names like “Hunger,” “Ego,” or “Hollow” emphasize the struggle the young woman from Wisconsin has been and is still going through, turning her insides out, baring her insecurities outside.
The music itself transforms these titles into spherical, swaying electro-pop anthems, sometimes borderlining industrial techno reminiscent of big beat-experts The Prodigy, sometimes paying homage to familiar 80s synths and of course Madonna’s 1998 album Ray of Light (you know, the one where she wore all those henna tattoos). Her opera-trained voice leads us through the record, melting with vibrant beats, eerie synth effects and harmonizing hauntingly in parts of the record, such as on the beautiful ballad “Nails.” Nonetheless, bits and parts of the record could stem from the score of a horror movie, with their seething rhythms, their recalcitrant chords and the overall air of discomfort.
Two weeks prior to release, Taiga was streaming not only on the prestigious New York Time feature “Press Play,” giving the public early access to the fifth record. The day of release, it was featured in iTunes top albums, couldn’t hold the position after a week passed – which is a shame. Taiga is a beautifully constructed, driven and melancholy LP that deserves more attention. But then again, it’s understandable: By drawing from the past, Nika ended up being way ahead of her time.
Article by: Julia Maehner