In the last three years Nika Roza Danilova has gone from being an outsider experimental teenage noise-maker to a full fledged internationally celebrated electronic pop musician. It was a huge feat to accomplish, and despite her age (young), her geography (mid-western, desolate), her accelerated scholastic requirements (high school and college were completed in three years each) and her diminutive physical size (4”11, 90 lbs) she has triumphed. She has emerged as a figurehead—a self-produced, self-designed, self-taught independent woman.
Zola Jesus is not a singer; she is a musician. Zola Jesus is not a band; it is a solo project. That is not to say the people who have helped her along the way were not deeply important. Her irreplaceable live band, who’s drummer Nick Johnson lends a hand on several tracks here, and her friend Brian Foote who co-produced this album in addition to the live string players (Sean McCann, Ryan York) who contribute here were all crucial in the process. Nika however, is a woman who can command a room, any room, without needing a band, a stage, or even a microphone. Her voice is unmistakable; it cuts right to the core.
Conatus is a huge leap forward in production, instrumentation and song structure. It says it all in the definition of the title: the will to keep on, to move forward. From thumping ballads to electronic glitch, no sound goes unexplored on her new record. It is an icy exploration in refined chaos and controlled madness, an effort to break through capability and access a sonic world that crumbles as it shines.
On August 20, Zola Jesus will release Versions, a collection of her songs recorded with a string quartet and veteran industrial producer JG Thirlwell (aka Foetus). In support of the record, which sprung from their 2012 performance at the Guggenheim, Zola Jesus will tour the U.S. with Thirlwell and Mivos Quartet.
ABOUT JG THIRLWELL
JG Thirlwell is a composer/producer/performer based in Brooklyn NY. He was born in Melbourne, Australia, where he studied art at Melbourne State College for two years before moving to London in 1978. After working with experimental group Nurse With Wound, Thirlwell started making his own records in 1980, initially releasing them on his own “Self Immolation” lable. He was inspired by the post-punk explosion of creativity in the UK which engendered the accessibility of DIY, as well as the writings of John Cage and systems music, among other things. He relocated to NYC in 1983, where he still lives and works today.
Thirlwell’s discography is extensive under many pseudonyms including Foetus, Steroid Maximus, Manorexia, Baby Zizanie, Wiseblood, Clint Ruin and others. If there is a common thread to his varied musical styles, it is dramatic intensity and evocative, cinematic quality. Thirlwell’s oeuvre stretches the gamut from orchestrations, big band, cathartic noise-rock to abstract electronics and sound sculpture, chamber music, serial music and imaginary soundtracks – sometimes all in the same album.
In recent years, with commissions for Kronos Quartet, Bang On A Can, and his occasional eighteen piece ensemble, he has been increasingly interested electronically and sample generated music being re-scored for traditional instrumentation – played both conventionally and not (recent examples include performing with a chamber ensemble version of Manorexia). Thirlwell is also a member of the “freq_out” sound-art collective, who create on-site sound and light installations led by curator Carl Michael Von Hausswolf. In addition, Thirlwell scores “The Venture Brothers”, a hit cartoon show on Adult Swim/Cartoon Network.
ABOUT MIVOS QUARTET
The Mivos Quartet, an “accomplished, admirably broad-minded young string quartet” (New York Times), is devoted to performing the works of contemporary composers, presenting new music to diverse audiences. Since the quartet’s beginnings in 2008 they have performed, commissioned and closely collaborated with an ever-expanding group of international composers who represent multiple aesthetics of contemporary classical composition. The quartet’s international performing schedule has included appearances at the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music (Darmstadt, Germany), Asphalt Festival (Düsseldorf, Germany), Concerti Aperitivo (Udine, Italy), HellHOT! New Music Festival (Hong Kong), Edgefest (Ann Arbor, MI), and Aldeburgh Music (UK). Beyond expanding the string quartet repertoire, Mivos is committed to working with guest artists, collaborating on multi-media projects, exploring group improvisation, and supporting young musicians through educational activities. Mivos’ forthcoming album (Spring 2013) on Carrier Records will feature works by Alex Mincek, David Franzson, Felipe Lara, and Wolfgang Rihm.