Zola Jesus
Okovi


3.0
good

Review

by Divaman USER (157 Reviews)
September 18th, 2017 | 30 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Sometimes in order to move forward, you have to take a step back.

When I first jumped onto the Zola Jesus train, it was already in motion. So I hit the floor hard, rolled for about six feet and smashed the back of my skull against the iron wall. I sat up, rubbing my head in confusion. Who is this Zola Jesus? Her birth name is Nicole Hummel, but she also goes by Nika Roza Danilova. Wikipedia says Zola Jesus is a person, but her bio on Sputnik says its a band. They said her music mixed electronic, industrial, classic and goth. But when I listened to her 2014 album Taiga, what I heard sounded more like alternative pop. My brain swam with bewilderment. Who is Zola Jesus? Maybe she's as confused as I am.

Perhaps that's the raison d'etre for Okovi, Zola Jesus' new album. In order to find who she is, Zola Jesus has taken a step back. I don't mean it in a derogatory way. It's more of a fortification thing. Sometimes, in order to move forward, you have to take a step back -- back to your roots to remember who you really are. With this album, Danilova has stepped back in as many ways as she can think of. She moved from Seattle back to Wisconsin, to simplify her life and regain some peace of mind. She moved from the Mute label, the label on which she released Taiga, back to Sacred Bones, her original label. And she moved her music back to the darker, more distinctive, goth-tinged style for which she originally was known. In more ways than not, this is a good thing.

The sounds of Okovi are mostly quite beautiful. The album is dominated by synths and string instruments (lots of violins, cellos and the like), supporting Danilova's ethereal (and sometimes electronically altered) vocals. A few of the tracks feature industrial-type beats, but many of them offer very limited percussion, giving the album something of an unearthly feel.

Okovi is a dark album, but not a bleak one. On it, Danilova deals with serious subject matter -- suicide, mental turmoil, the possible meaningless of life. Somehow, though, she faces these difficult issues from a position of self-assurance. On "Wiseblood", the album's best track, she asks us (and herself) this essential question: "If it doesn't make you wiser/Doesn't make you stronger/Doesn't make you live a little bit/What are you doing?" And from this state of inner strength, she faces down demons which in the past have threatened to overwhelm her. So while the lyrics often contain images of death and questions about emptiness ("What remains of us?/... I'm, I'm nothing" from "Remains"), there are also representations of rebirth ("Let it sing, don't let it hold you down/In the static you were reborn" from "Exhumed") as a counterbalance.

Whereas Taiga found Danilova changing her style, searching for more mainstream appeal, or maybe just wanting to try something different, Okovi finds her rediscovering herself. As a result, she's made a better, and more memorable, album.

So who is Zola Jesus? Not even she knows for sure, but she's figuring it out. And judging by Okovi, she's back on the right track.



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user ratings (118)
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
jtswope
September 18th 2017


5788 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This was my first Zola Jesus experience, but I was floored by this. Soak is one of my favorite songs this year.

Divaman
September 18th 2017


4498 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"Soak" is also one of my favorite songs on the album,

Digging: Bayside - Interrobang

hesperus
Contributing Reviewer
September 18th 2017


1134 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yeah, Soak is definitely the album highlight

Chortles
September 18th 2017


21455 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great review! I still need to hear this

ONEPUNCHMAN
September 18th 2017


403 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

What a spook

Sinternet
September 18th 2017


21120 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

how u gonna give this only a 3 lmao fuck off wanker

Digging: Vi Som Alskade Varandra Sa Mycket - Det Onda. Det Goda. Det Vackra. Det Fula.

Divaman
September 18th 2017


4498 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

For me, it fell between a 3 and a 3.5. I rounded down. Would have given it a 3.2 or 3.3 if I was a contributor, better than "good", but just short of "great".

luci
September 19th 2017


12071 Comments


this grew off me unfortunately. the melodies and songwriting are there but the production isn't unique or weird enough. prob closer to a 3.5, although it's her best work since stridulum

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
September 19th 2017


17248 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review Diva! Hard pos.



Man, what a month, Zola, Myrkur, Wolfe...

Digging: Common Holly - When I say to you Black Lightning

Divaman
September 19th 2017


4498 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks Dewinged.

brandontaylor
September 19th 2017


877 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this reads like more than a 3, and i've only listened once but it definitely sounds like its gonna be a 3.5-4. soak is fantastic

butcherboy
September 21st 2017


9464 Comments


still need to listen to her.. pos, Diva, great job..

jtswope
October 4th 2017


5788 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review btw Diva.



This album is awesome. Doma is so heavenly and haunting at the same time. Amazing intro to the album. The way those strings kick in on Exhumed is so powerful. Such a strong track. Soak is incredible. Favorite on here for sure. Witness is so pretty. Siphon has a nice immediacy to it despite it's dark subject matter. And Veka is probably my second favorite. The way that track builds is stunning. And that's only like half the album. Not a track on here I didn't like tbh.

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
October 4th 2017


17248 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nailed it man.

Jips
October 9th 2017


1147 Comments


this rules

twwerkcity
October 19th 2017


71 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Holy shit Witness legitimately moves me to tears every time I hear it... what a hauntingly beautiful album.

TetraVaal
October 25th 2017


137 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Probably the most underrated album of the year.

jtswope
October 27th 2017


5788 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You might be right.

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2017


3112 Comments


Oh my, I love this. I've listened to no other Zola Jesus, though, is this a fine place to start?

Digging: Leonard Cohen - Thanks For The Dance

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
December 9th 2017


17248 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I would say yes blush!



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