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Zola Jesus Finds Balance Between Pop and Experimental on “Soak”

The new single feels like the exact sweet spot Zola Jesus has been aiming for.

by Patrick Lyons

The upcoming Zola Jesus album is sounding like an absolute beast. Since the late 2000s, Nika Roza Danilova’s project has gradually shifted from noisy lo-fi to industrial pop, and now three years since the release of her most orthodox-sounding release to date, Taiga, she seems like she’s finally reached a happy medium between her experimental and populist impulses.

The first evidence of this was “Exhumed,” the lead single from her sixth album (Okovi), which was shared about a month ago. A thrilling shapeshifter, it careens between big, gothic strings, faraway primal screams, a beat that sounds like a collaboration between Arca and Phil Collins, and choral, skyscraping lead vocals. Fitting all of this into under four minutes is a feat and a half, not to mention making something so simultaneously abrasive and catchy-- it feels like the exact sweet spot Zola Jesus has been aiming for over the past decade or so. 

Then there’s “Soak,” which we just received today. This one’s less in-your-face wild than “Exhumed,” but what it lacks in eclectic arrangement, it makes up for in anthemic purity. Haunting, brooding, but also somehow uplifting, “Soak” sounds like Mezzanine-era Massive Attack replaced guest vocalist (and dream pop legend) Elizabeth Fraser with Florence Welch, opting for bombast rather than sweetness. Backed by a hollowed-out, slowed down dub beat, buzzing atmospherics, and reverberating bells, Danilova finds a setting for her pop instincts that doesn’t sterilize the industrial/goth leanings that define her Zola Jesus project.

Okovi comes out on September 8th, and after releasing Taiga on the larger electronic-leaning label Mute, it’s fitting that Zola Jesus is returning to here original home, Sacred Bones, for this one. Pre-order the album here


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Patrick Lyons is a music writer based in Portland who is equally enthralled by black metal and Southern rap-- catch him making maddeningly eclectic choices on the aux cord.



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