Before Nika Danilova was Zola Jesus, she was a UW-Madison student with a big voice and even bigger ambitions. Isthmus was one of the first media outlets to interview her back in 2008 and 2009, when she recorded lo-fi tracks in her apartment and shared them with a handful of friends on MySpace. Those big ambitions have taken Danilova far over the past six years.
Zola Jesus has toured the world with Fever Ray, collaborated with M83, played concerts at landmarks like New York City's Guggenheim Museum and much more. If Danilova's new track, "Dangerous Days," is any indication, she's gained a wealth of confidence from gigs like these.
Though local friends may remember Danilova's bond with former Madisonians Peaking Lights, who tend toward experimental fusions of dub and noise, she's created something for the masses with "Dangerous Days." It's an anthemic pop song, the kind that could easily put an entire arena of people in a trance-like state that compels them to dance.
There's a sort of visceral longing in her vocals, which makes the track fit into her catalog of dark and feral songs. But the track has a slicker sound than much of her early material. This seems appropriate given the exponential growth of her career, and her departure from Madison's underground.
Danilova hasn't forgotten her Wisconsin roots, though. "Dangerous Days" is the first single from Taiga, a new album slated for an October 2014 release. The record's title is a reference to both the boreal forest of Russia, the home of her ancestors, and the woodlands of northern Wisconsin, where she grew up.
"It represents a feral, untapped world that could happily exist without us. There are taiga forests... where I was raised, and also in Russia where my ancestors are from, so it also feels very native," she explains.
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