Zola Jesus is one of those artists you see in one moment doing weird, underground music, deeply rooted in the underground and in the next, she’s Depeche Mode’s label mate at Mute, fills venues like Webster Hall and is ready to conquer the billboard charts. Taiga is her fifth album, following two years after Conatus, which brought her on the map for a larger audience and it’ i safe to say, if you liked Conatus you will like her new release too.
The album starts with the title track, which acts like a trailer for the album: you get Zola’s vocals, frantic drums and classical-inspired dark synth layers. To be honest, I have been expecting something different after last year’s release of Versions: there, in recreating some of her songs in an acoustic setting, she showed some new level of restraint, which made me curious how this could translate into her usual electronic setting. But that is not what we get with Taiga: this is full force Zola Jesus. If anything, she moves in direction of her Stridulum era sound, with its heavy drums and dark theatrics – Laibach comes to mind not only once.
But, whatever. Nika Danilova is 25 years old and has plenty of time to explore new ways in future albums. For now, we have Taiga and I find it a very good album. Even Dangerous Days, the most conventional pop song on the record, has grown on me after listening a few times. And there are a good bunch of more exciting tracks on Taiga, like Hunger with its orchestral instrumentation driven by a mad beat. Other instant favorites are Lawless or the closer It’s Not Over, which starts slow but then evolves into a furious finale.
Overall Taiga feels fresher and more inspired than Conatus, which I found somewhat exhausting at times. Taiga on the other hand is like a jolt of energy, which makes me to go faster. Its sound is big and grand and for once, this is music I could imagine being performed by an entire orchestra.
Zola Jesus is currently on tour, including a stop at New York’s Webster Hall, where we will see her.