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 songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. This week, we’re featuring songs by artists performing at the 10th annual Decibel Festival. Today’s song is “Hikikomori” by Zola Jesus from the 2013 album Versions on Sacred Bones.
Zola Jesus emerged in the late 2000s as one of the most unique bedroom artists of her generation and has since graduated to become one of electronic music’s most forward thinking creators. Taking her moniker from French writer Emile Zola and Jesus Christ, the Wisconsin-born Niki Rosa Danilova began crafting songs in her apartment, resulting in the 2009 LP The Spoils, which incorporated classical and experimental elements into an electronic framework. Danilova removed herself from the lo-fi aesthetic on her next albums, 2010’s Stridulum II and 2011’s Conatus, resulting in music more representative of Danilova’s immense emotional scale. Her latest studio release, Versions, finds Danilova collaborating with composer JG Thirlwell (who also records as Foetus) to create orchestral versions of nine of her songs. Compared to the original arrangement, Thirlwell and Danilova’s reimagining on Conatus’ “Hikikomori” is stark, cutting, and among her most direct work. Over the Mivos Quartet’s sharp and tense interpretation of the growling synths that led the original, Danilova’s classically trained voice opens wide and clear: “I always rather go alone,” she sings. Removed from anything electronic or industrial to create a challenging soundscape, Versions proves that, despite being an excellent studio craftsman, Danilova is an excellent singer and songwriter who’s more than capable of shifting her form to find new ways to surprise herself.
Zola Jesus, along with JG Thirlwell and the Mivos Quartet, plays the Triple Door on September 28th as part of Decibel Festival this weekend. Get tickets and more information about that all-ages show, keep up with Zola Jesus on her Facebook and website, and here, and watch Danirova and Thirwell perform the Versions incarnation of “Avalanche” at the Guggenheim last year.