Zola Jesus: Arkhon Album Review


Nika Roza Danilova has spent more than a decade shaping an author’s vision of experimental pop. During this period, her music evolved dramatically even if its central tenets remained unwavering: the black tone, the strength of Danilova’s voice, a concern for death both on a daily and cosmic scale. His music, largely self-produced, is the result of a dogged pursuit of a specific vision.

In the years following the release of his fifth album Okovi, Danilova began to question this line of thinking entirely. Stimulated by a growing socialist consciousness – as evidenced by its Twitter account, which she uses to critique and question the growing influence of big tech in the music industry – Danilova began to wonder if her once individual process was just another manifestation of the atomizing nature and isolation from capitalism. “There is so much exploitation and subjugation that prevents humanity from collaborating and living more holistically,” she said earlier this month. “[The industry] partitions the musicians through this authorism where we are all supposed to be these individual islands of artistic genius. We are therefore not encouraged to collaborate.

On Arkhon, Danilova’s sixth record, she’s actively trying to counter the ethos that guided her earlier work, bringing in Sunn O)))’s Randall Dunn and session drummer Matt Chamberlain to bring a collaborative spirit to a project once hermetically sealed. The resulting album broadens the scope of his music while retaining his primal, gothic spirit. Deeply concerned with the nature of artistic creation itself – and, more specifically, how to do it freely without naturally absorbing the impositions of a cruelly alienating world – it is a pleasingly shapeless record, an album of experimentation and small upheavals that bring new textures that are sometimes mismatched. in his world.

Arkhon has brought her concerns to the fore since her opener “Lost,” where Danilova laments how corporate structures continue to disenfranchise artists. “Everyone I know is lost,” she sings, her voice deep and buzzing, shrouded in echo. The song progresses like an incantation or fairy tale, Chamberlain’s heavy drum pressing and heartbreaking. “Lost” presents Arkhon like an album about Danilova’s journey to spiritual rebirth: over the course of the record, she “crosses the abyss to something new”, enters a body of water that “will give you everything you want”, walks eyes closed in a forest. Oceans and forests have always provided a fertile metaphor for Danilova – her 2014 record was called Taigaafter the harsh, extensive forest types commonly found in Russia – but these examples seem more ominous, more related to some sort of urge to return to a more organic, naturalistic way of life.


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