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Zola Jesus Details
Nika is the 25-year-old behind this project’s creative incarnations: singer, sole songwriter and producer. Her new album Taiga is at once challenging and accessible, and is undeniably branded with what Nika terms a “piercing ambition.” Such encompassing purpose, she explains, would be impossible without a newfound sense of personal and artistic self. The album is a declaration of that purpose; one laced with jarring clarity in both its content and production. “For me, it feels like my true debut, because it is the first time I have felt so open and liberated,” she explains.
For Nika, Taiga is a leap that reflects a fearlessness to be earnest and open, an approach that is immediately evidenced in the album’s track “Dangerous Days,” an undeniably hook ridden four-on-the-floor smash in which she sings, “It’s dangerous to know… and when it comes, are you going to throw your bite into the game? Know what’s right for your name?” Still, inherent in this self is a sense of searching and complicated impulses. The track “Go” is a manifesto of sorts but also a journey, echoing: “And I say no one can stop me now. I go downtown where they don’t know my name.” Successfully petitioning her parents at an extremely young age to be trained as an opera singer, Nika has always been committed and enveloped by her craft. At the age of 10 she tried applying to the Juilliard School of Music. She was too young to be admitted, but the devotion to her craft continued. Less than a decade later she was recording EPs in her north woods Wisconsin basement as Zola Jesus. These efforts proved successful and enduring, perpetually renewed as each new release reflected a growing musician and a burgeoning personal identity. Nika has always pushed boundaries: her boundaries; the boundaries of a diverse and loyal fan base; and the boundaries of any musical or genre expectation.
Her previous release – Versions, a widely celebrated collaboration with legendary electronic pioneer JG Thirlwell (Foetus) – was a Greatest Hits of sorts. Thirlwell composed classical arrangements of tracks from Nika’s previous albums, Conatus and Stridulum. Along with a string quartet, they performed these songs in the fall of 2013 in a handful of carefully curated venues and museums in Europe and the United States. Nika’s confidence as a performer and an artist transitioned greatly during the tour promoting Versions. A new sense of grounding emerged to surpass the trademark vulnerability that had driven previous Zola Jesus releases.