Zola Jesus Stridulum

Zola Jesus Stridulum
Last year, Nika Roza Danilova emerged as Zola Jesus from the gloomy depths of cheese country (Madison, WI) to drop one of the year's most arresting efforts, The Spoils. The opera-trained, 21-year-old siren used whatever was at her disposal to make an album that presented goth- and industrial-influenced arrangements with an impenetrable lo-fi buzz. The key was always Danilova's imposing tongue, and on her follow-up EP it comes out from behind the crackling production to present her voice loud and clear. Advertised as a "far less lo-fi" EP recorded for the first time with "professional instruments," Stridulum displays a cleaner, yet more empowered, Zola Jesus. Some may argue that the low fidelity of her previous work is what made the music so alluring, but it's still as murky as ever, with the use of cold, ominous synths. As driving, electronic pulses cut through the muddy, ambient keys on "Trust Me," Danilova's vocals become Zola Jesus's vanguard. By the time "Manifest Destiny" ends the EP, bellowing "how will we survive?," she leaves us hanging with the kind of dramatic peak that calls for the end of days. (Sacred Bones)