Song of the Day: Zola Jesus – Vessel

photo by Dave Lichterman

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased tracks, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Morning Show with John Richards, is “Vessel” by Zola Jesus from the forthcoming 2011 album Conatus on Sacred Bones Records.

Zola Jesus – Vessel (MP3)

In the write-up on Sacred Bones Records’ website for Zola Jesus’ forthcoming LP, Conatus, it is made clear that “Zola Jesus is not a band, it is a solo project.” While this is often the case for solo artists performing under a different name with others musicians, it is usually not something anyone goes out of their way to emphasize, either because the idea of a “band” is more appealing, or so as not to shortchange the musicians busting their ass on tour and sometimes in the studio with said solo artist. However, in the case of Zola Jesus, also known as Madision, Wisconsin’s Nika Roza Danilova, it is almost necessary to point out that it is Danilova alone who is responsible for all that is Zola Jesus. Otherwise, it might be hard to believe that the dark, brooding electronic music is all the work of a 4’9”, 90-pound, Russian-American with bleach-blonde hair… same goes for her paralyzing, operatic vocals.

Zola Jesus released her debut full-length album, The Spoils, on Sacred Bones in 2009. The album is highly noise-oriented, expansive, and helped popularize Zola Jesus in the indie scene. Her recent releases, however, have been far more clean-cut and simplistic, letting Danilova’s classically-trained voice come to the forefront, as it should be. If today’s featured song is any indication, Zola Jesus’ forthcoming album looks to adhere to this same formula — the song features Danilova performing a variety of mesmerizing vocal theatrics over a steady base of industrial electronics.

Zola Jesus is currently on tour and will be playing at The Crocodile for the second time this year on October 8. You can read about her first 2011 performance at the venue right here. For more tour info, visit Zola Jesus’ website. When she was in town earlier this year in May, she happened to stop by KEXP to perform a few songs live on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters. From that session, here is “Trust Me”:

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