Zola Jesus’ latest album, Conatus, is what you might take on a road trip to Gotham City, where people wander the streets with black lung, wearing full length trench coats. It’s industrial and electric and satisfyingly gothic. And if this city had a voice it would be that of Nika Roza Danilova.
This album if filled with heavy beats and dark synths. Classical instrumentation accent these tracks delicately. Lyrically and instrumentally, it’s hard to determine which half is written to appease the other. Both are dark. Both are gothic.
The listener wastes no time cutting into the darker meat. The opening track “Swords” is an instrumental preview of album setting, and proof once again that Danilova can create striking albums with or without the voice. “Vessel” is as industrial as Trent Reznor’s kitchen. The album has somber moments, too. “Lick the Palm of the Burning Handshake” is a well composed piano song, sad and despairing. It stands alone a the purest form of traditional pop that you’ll hear on this album. It’s easy to play this song three of four times over.
Conatus ends with a fireworks show of synth and pump organ that tapers off into rhythmic swells and perfected vocals. It’s the perfect storm where harmony meets violence, and the formula that points Zola Jesus toward an evolved genre.