Zola Jesus — Taiga
•ε• The dark, lo-fi synth pop project of Nika Danilova, who also plays in Former Ghosts.
Born: April 11, 1989 in Phoenix, AZ
Location: West Hollywood, California, USA
Album release: October 7, 2014
Record Label: Mute
01 Taiga 2:56
02 Dangerous Days 4:30
03 Dust 3:33
04 Hunger 4:32
05 Go (Blank Sea) 2:49
06 Ego 2:49
07 Lawless 5:15
08 Nail 3:05
09 Long Way Down 3:59
10 Hollow 3:51
11 It’s Not Over 4:06
℗ 2014 Zola Jesus Inc under license to Mute Artists Ltd
•ε• Nika Roza Danilova — producer
•ε• Dean Hurley — co-producer, mixing
•ε• A music video was released for the album's first single "Dangerous Days". The music video was directed by Timothy Saccenti and filmed in Hoh Rainforest, Washington.
By Patrick Bowman, Oct 03, 2014 ISSUE #51 — SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014 — ALT-J
•ε• Over the course of Nika Roza Danilova's career as art pop maven Zola Jesus — which includes a stretch of three critically–hailed full–length albums in three years before the age of 23 — the former philosophy student and Wisconsin native has cycled through abstracted, lo–fi industrial music (2009's The Spoils); chilly, off–kilter synth pop (2010's Stridulum II); and glitchy, distant electronica (2011's Conatus). Each turn of style never sounded ill–fitting; Danilova's songwriting, along with her gorgeously elemental voice, corralled these subtly disparate sonic textures under the sway of deceptively simple pop music. When she turned the rough edges of her back catalog into mini–symphonies on 2013's Versions, it's telling that not one of her songs lost any of its original power, but actually took on new dimensions and shades of depth through their transformation.
•ε• Versions was a palate–cleansing album if there ever was one, and now that Danilova has returned with her fourth full–length album Taiga — a title that evokes an expansive, untamed snow–covered forest — she's used all the tools accrued over her career to craft an impressively versatile and sprawling goth pop album that's simultaneously her most adventurous and accessible to date. Lead single "Dangerous Days," for instance, uses a churning synth riff and ambient swaths of sound to build under Danilova's voice before exploding in the best hook she's ever written. The patient waltz of "Dust" evokes a '90s R&B slow jam recorded in an abandoned subway tunnel, full of ghostly, far–off vocals falling in and out of the mix and hydraulic hi–hats skittering away nervously. And finally, Danilova uses the rumbling low–end trip–hop of "Lawless" to seemingly reference the blared out electronics of rap producer du jour DJ Mustard (specifically YG's "I Just Wanna Party"). Danilova has said that Taiga feels like her "true debut" album, and that sense of discovery is palpable. Over the course of Taiga's 11 superlative tracks, Danilova has set the stage for a new phase in her career as Zola Jesus.
By NME Blog, Posted on 29 Sep 14
•ε• Zola Jesus has always possessed some of the mightiest lungs in music: her belting, strident voice boomed throughout the moody melodrama of debut ‘Stridulum II’ and the glitchier follow–up ‘Conatus’. New album Taiga, though, marries those impressive pipes to some of her biggest, most accessible songs yet. Speaking about the LP herself, the singer — aka Nika Roza Danilova — says: “The music on the record is massive, with big brass and beats, crystal clear vocals… It’s the most accessible music I’ve ever made, but also the most earnest and passionate. I gave everything for this record, more than ever before.”
•ε• The 11–track effort was written on Vashon Island, Washington and was mixed in Los Angeles by Dean Hurley (David Lynch, Sparklehorse).
BY CHRIS LO, 29 SEPTEMBER 2014, 13:30 BST; SCORE: 8.5/10
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Artist Biography by Heather Phares
•ε• Zola Jesus is the project of Nika, who crafts dark music dominated by her operatic vocals and keyboards. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Nika showed an interest in singing early on, buying voice lesson tapes and opera sheet music at age seven; soon after, she began working with a vocal coach for the next decade. Anxiety and the competitive nature of opera caused her to stop singing for a couple of years, but missing that form of expression spurred her to begin Zola Jesus. Inspired by high–school favorites like Diamanda Galás, Lydia Lunch, Throbbing Gristle, and Swans, Nika made cathartic home recordings using keyboards, drum machines, and anything else she had on hand. Her first officially released music included a couple of 2008 7"s: the Poor Sons EP on Die Stasi and Soeur Sewer on Sacred Bones.
•ε• In 2009, Zola Jesus became one of the most talked and blogged–about underground artists, and her release and touring schedule reflected that: along with the full–length The Spoils, she also released the Tsar Bomba EP on Troubleman, New Amsterdam on Sacred Bones, and an untitled, limited–edition vinyl album and a split release with Burial Hex on Aurora Borealis. For her live band, she recruited her cousin Dead Luke to play synths, bassist Lindsay Mikkola, and drummer Max Elliott. Nika also played in the group Former Ghosts, which featured Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart and Freddy Ruppert. She remained just as busy in 2010, touring with Fever Ray and the xx and releasing the cleaner–sounding Stridulum, Stridulum II, and Valusia EPs.
The following year she collaborated with Prefuse 73 on The Misanthrope Meditation Mix and released her third full–length, Conatus, which found Nika continuing to move away from her lo–fi roots and toward experimental electronic pop. Toward the end of the Conatus tour, Nika was asked to perform at New York's Guggenheim Museum, an event for which she collaborated with Foetus' J.G. Thirlwell, who provided arrangements for the Mivos Quartet. These string–based renditions were captured in 2013's Versions. For her fourth album, 2014's Taiga, Nika moved to Mute Records. •ε• Named after the Russian word for "forest," she wrote and recorded the album on Washington State's verdant Vashon Island and mixed it in Los Angeles with longtime collaborator Dean Hurley.