Zola Jesus Conatus
    • THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2011

    • Posted by: Ed McGarrigle

    One thing that is made abundantly clear through these eleven tracks is how large a landscape Zola Jesus occupies. The music and tone of the album are industrial and vast. At times, they serve to paint landscapes, using broad strokes to create a scene. The songs are busy, filled to the brim with instrumentation, but most of it seems like bells and whistles (literally in some cases). That's not necessarily a bad thing. The tracks are layered so thickly that it creates a sense of losing one's bearings while listening, and the audience might have a hard time knowing which way is up through the multitudes of synths, electronic drums, and Nika Roza Danilova's gothic delivery. Then again, maybe that's the whole point.

    Many tracks feel like they could be the soundtrack to the remake of Blade Runner—high-tech with no emotions breaking through—until a little digging is done by the listener. This isn't an obvious album, some effort is required. But on most cuts, especially songs like "Vessel" (which sounds like Nine Inch Nails being fronted by Lady Gaga), the listener will be eager to undertake such heavy tasks. The songs themselves are dense and viscous, but a close listen will thin the mixture. The same is true of the song "Hikikomori," the song is thick like a milkshake, but it's inviting enough to make you want to continue to parse. "Hikikomori" is one of the few occasions where real drums and string instruments are used on the album, and their usage serve to give the song a heartfelt emotion.

    It seems like Zola Jesus lose most when they venture into obscurity. Smoke and mirrors tend to crowd their constructions. In other song, like the nearly instrumental "Ixode" which is solely comprised of moans and oblique tones, it gets harder to see the meaning. The music becomes too quixotic and, in the end, inaccessible to the fair-weather ear. This is Zola Jesus' best album to date, and also their most adventurous. Solid and worth a listen to those willing to put in the time and effort, but not for the faint of ear.

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    MP3: "Vessel"

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