Zola Jesus, “Taiga”
There’s a confident energy that surrounds Taiga. Haunting and chilling from the start, Nika Danilova (a.k.a. Zola Jesus) emerges from the echoes of the album’s opening song with a powerful and booming voice. Fast, industrial beats surround her chants, transforming raw emotions into dance-ready compositions (most notably in “Hunger” and “Dangerous Days”). Danilova doesn’t hold back on the theatrics with regards to the LP’s production, opting for big brass, heavy drums and, of course, operatic vocals. But unlike her previous wall-of-sound experiments, the layers don’t overpower the songs; Danilova is heard clearly and soars with mesmerizing ferocity. Whether it’s through the wild vigor of Taiga’s first half or the quiet subtlety of the second, the Arizona songstress stands bold and unafraid. She uses the dynamic environment of the taiga, with its immense forests and pristine territories, as a source of inspiration to express her own layers of sound and emotions; those that were previously vast and uncharted are now open for exploration and reflection.