Watching Zola Jesus grow has been fascinating. She's gone from an enigmatic MySpace profile and a quiet presence on Sacred Bones' roster to being one of the most buzzed about artists of the year. What's really worth noting about Zola's version of the local-girl-turned-international-sensation story, though, is the way she's cultivated her image as Pitchfork, The New York Times and numerous other heavy hitters have taken note.
While her sound draws influence from the worlds of noise-rock, Scandinavian darkwave and goth-pop, putting a bit more black eyeliner on the goth aspect has made people take notice. It's also led to videos like the one for "Night," a track off of her new EP, Stridulum, which she recently performed at several stops on Fever Ray's European tour.
But the video, directed by Jacqueline Castel of Future Primitive Films and WNYU's excellent (Make The) Product radio program, doesn't rehash Siouxee and the Banshees' gothic vision. It's surrealism meets S&M, with enough futuristic touches to make sci-fi fans pay attention as well. In other words, it looks more like the product of art school than an advertising firm.
Visceral details -- the click of heels on a hard floor, the shimmer of light on Danilova's raven-colored hair, brows and nails -- set the stage for a mysterious tale about a man with blades for hands and a box for a head. It's more metaphor than narrative, though. As Danilova primps in front of a mirror surrounded by red neon lamps, she's pulled into a misty alternate universe where knives gleam brighter than her face.
Her vocals, forceful but pretty, cut through the haze like razors as she sings about late-night moments. Not only do the dark hours represent a time of intimacy and comfort, she observes: They're a release from worry, a time to finally rest one's tired bones.
What "rest" means, however, is up for debate. Perhaps it's a quiet moment with a lover. Perhaps that lover isn't a real person but the memory of one. Or maybe Danilova's dancing with Death himself. Maybe it's his hand she's offering to hold and his bed she's offering to make. Whatever the answer may be, "Night" is proof that the aftermath of a big event is often more satisfying than being in the spotlight.
More music by Zola Jesus is available on her MySpace page and from Sacred Bones. Catch the live version of Danilova's act, featuring more songs from Stridulum, when she performs at the Frequency this Saturday, June 26.
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