Posts Tagged ‘Zola Jesus’

RSTB Best of 2017

So this year is drawing to a close, or almost, we’re still a few weeks away from pushing the broken pieces of 2017 into the trash. There’s no real solace from a lot of the events that took place this year, but, independent of any current events, music has been kind to us all this year. These are the records that spent the most time on the turntable over here. Yeah, I know its kind of a lot, but there were far too many good ones that haven’t been getting the shouts they need elsewhere. Lets say this serves as both a best of and a most overlooked in one go. If you enjoy ’em, buy ’em if you can. Don’t do them the disservice of just bumping up the streaming numbers.

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Event Rundown: Basilica Soundscape 2017

I’m not usually one for live coverage. There are those that do it well and photographers with a better eye and I’ll usually leave it to them. This, however, being my fourth year in attendance at Soundscape in a town I’ve called home for as long, it feels fitting to at least weigh in. This might be even more true given that the mass that descends on Hudson is so often swept up in telling you to check out this “cute” hamlet nestled by the river that they forget to stop and reflect on who and what Hudson really is. So, while I’ve always appreciated Soundscape for giving an easily accessible glut of great artists (both literary and musical) it’s often hard not to grit at the parade of weekend goths gawkin’ up real estate prices during Fall Musical Recess 2017 sponsored by Warby Parker clear frames.

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Zola Jesus

If, at this point, you’re on the fence about the greatness of the new Zola Jesus record, then you’ve clearly not heard any or all of Okovi. Nika Rosa Danilova’s codifying moment comes in the form of 40-minutes of pleasure and pain that wrench the very soul from the listener. She then douses said soul in a harrowing darkness that explores loss and mortality, while showering it in the light of one of this decade’s most powerful and uplifting voices.

The record shows a marked return to Danilova’s darker instincts, she blends her exploration of personal tragedies with a shift from Taiga’s pop aspirations and back towards the body flattening atmospheres of the Stridulum EP. However, she incorporates lessons gleaned along the way, injecting the darkness with a stadium sized feeling that’s full of a hope that peeks from the walls of despair. She’s also taken the soaring orchestral swells of her re-interpretive album Versions and applied them liberally to an album proper, giving Okovi a grandness that’s angelic in its exploration of life’s consistent lean towards heartbreak and loss.

Again, I’m by no means going to be the first to tell you this is a monumental achievement by an artist who has spent a career consistently crafting high water marks. If the top 40 was too blind to see what they had in her turn towards accessibility, then they’ll likely miss out here as well, but they’d be remiss. Taiga was accessible in its move towards the light, but Okovi is universally touching in its dive into the dark. We’re all besieged by the despair of familial loss, the hairpin turns of life at any chaotic moment, the overwhelming face of the cosmic inevitable. However, Danilova has distilled those feelings into a glowing beacon of an album that we should all be able to relate to, and deep down, that we all need.




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Zola Jesus on Magdalith – S/T

There have been a lot of artists that have popped up repeatedly on RSTB over the many years, but few with the consistency of Zola Jesus. Nika Danilova’s first appearance was in 2008 on a year end list of 7″s, marking her “Souer Sewer” cut as one to watch in the coming years. Seems like she’s not only been one to watch, but one to anticipate with great hopes as each release nears. Her work has set a high bar not only for those enamored with the dark strains of industrial and goth but for any electronic or pop record in a given year. Her latest, Okovi is one of her most personal albums and a stunning reminder of her power as a vocalist – confronting tragedy with a strident battalion of sound. For her entry to Hidden Gems, Danilova has picked a record far from the beaten track, the 1973 eponymous work of French Gregorian singer Magdalith, whose works echo Zola Jesus’ own balance of desolation and heart-stopping vocals.

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Jozef Van Wissem

For a lutenist, Van Wissem has made a pretty sizeable dent into experimental and indie circles. Maybe its because he pals around with Jim Jarmusch and Zola Jesus. The former he’s collaborated with plenty in the past, even winning a Cannes film award for his work on the score to Only Lovers Left Alive. The latter appears here, fleshing out his sparse compositions with her own spectral haunt. But maybe its because Van Wissem’s work holds a lonesome power that draws collaborators like these in. His past works have painted with solemn, yet slightly intricate strokes, classical in feeling but not stuffy. He’s felt like the art history buff trying to open up his classmates to the wonders of 15th century without getting overly condescending about it.

On When Shall This Bright Day Begin he definitely clips a few notes from his work with Jarmusch. The pair’s collaborative albums draw in a lot of noise elements and drink from a well of experimentation. For this outing thoug, Van Wissem keeps the noise at bay but dips into some borrowed cinematic scope; Zola Jesus opening the album with a disembodied, ambient float over his plucks, vocal samples crackling against sepia toned stringwork and his own vocal arrangements pounding like mantras. Its when he lets the lute sing alone though that the album’s at its strongest. The recording is unencumbered, each note smacking into that pang of regret in your stomach like a steadied blow. Though to be fair, the second collaboration here with Zola Jesus is as hair raising as anything either have done, finding both parties reaching towards their inner goth hearts to make a track that’s infinitely absorbing. This album sounds like Van Wissem has finally found his stride and is so comfortable with his instrument that he makes his pangs our pangs and its easy to thank him for it.





Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

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