In the last few years, there’s been a bunch of new dark ladies making their mark in music-- Anika, Anna Calvi, Fever Ray, Rykarda Parasol, and Nika Roza Danilova (more commonly known as Zola Jesus) to name a few. The latter, Zola Jesus, came to NYC’s Webster Hall this past Saturday and cast her musical spell on the enthusiastically somber crowd.
Zola Jesus are descendants of bands like Joy Division, Siouxsie & The Banshees, and Portishead, who were very heavy on foreboding atmosphere and high drama. This was readily apparent with their visual use of a deep blue backdrop, starlike tiny lights, pale spotlights, even a few strobe lights, and of course, a serious smoke machine. This staging both complemented and enhanced the band’s stellar performance, but didn’t distract or overpower. In fact, it made complete sense. Believe me, I’ve seen a lot of light shows over the years and ZJ gets it right.
ZJ combine military style drum beats, thick synthesizers, and a plodding, vibrating bass line to build their enveloping wall of sound. Through this whole setup, Roza stalked the stage back and forth, dressed in white with her blonde hair flying. The rest of the band played on in the shadows while Nika sang her guts out to the audience, her arms gracefully flailing like a bird trying to fly while conducting an orchestra from behind its back. They performed selections like "Night," "Tower," and "Poor Animal" from their Stridulum and Valusia EPs, and several numbers, such as "Vessel," "Hikikomari," and "Seekir," off of their latest full-length release Conatus. Despite the music’s dark-wave vibe, Nika’s lyrics speak of hope, love and positivity. Towards the end of the evening, Nika came out and sat at the keyboard and performed "Skin." Ms. Danilova posseses a deep, rich, and passionate voice that is especially powerful when she's stripped down to just a single instrument accompanying herself. It sounds as if she could be the vocal lesbian love child of Nico and Siouxsie Sioux. In other words, this chick is a powerhouse singer and clearly sustained it throughout the entire gig.
If this show is playing near you, I highly recommend you attend, commune with this mesmerizing band, and worship a true rock goddess-- Nika Roza Danilova aka Zola Jesus.
Click here for Zola Jesus tour dates and info:
[Review by Michael Levine]
(Image source: Manfred Werner)