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Nika Roza Danilova (born April 11, 1989), better known by her stage name Zola Jesus, is an American singer-songwriter. She has released three EPs and three full-length albums that combine electronic, industrial, classical, goth, and experimental rock influences.
In 2009, while still studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Zola Jesus recorded (in her apartment) and released her debut full-length The Spoils. The sound was in a certain way dependent on her surroundings. "I usually record in the winter because I am holed up. It's cold outside but warm inside with the heater and blankets. A lot of the songs are cold but in the coldness you find warmth. Winter has a lot to do with it.
Then followed Tsar Bomba EP (on Troubleman), New Amsterdam compilation on Sacred Bones and an untitled, limited-edition vinyl split with Burial Hex (Aurora Borealis). For touring she recruited Dead Luke (synths), bassist Lindsay Mikkola and drummer Max Elliott. Later the line-up changed to: Shane Verwey and Nick Turco (synth), Alex DeGroot ("who... does fancy controller things I can't wrap my head around, as well as backup vocals" per Danilova) and Nick Johnson, a drummer with metal band Jex Thoth.
Zola Jesus has also played with Former Ghosts. "It was fun to participate in that project. Freddy is a really amazing person, I am very honoured to be able to collaborate with him and Jamie," she commented. On Fever Ray's 2010 European tour, she performed as a support act and also toured with The xx. In the late 2009 collaboration between Zola Jesus and Rory Kane took shape (as Nika+Rory project), a demo being put out on MySpace which was described as having "more of a straight up pop feel". "Rory really nails that trance-pop-r&b style, he loves making that stuff and I love singing on it," Danilova remarked.
In 2010, Zola Jesus released the Stridulum EP, described as "a much grander effort" (next to her debut album) and her "most melodic work to date". Inspired by Giulio Paradisi 1979 film of the same name, it marked "a huge leap forward in terms of fidelity and accessibility". "With Stridulum I've tried to find a better balance; meeting in the middle with melody and texture," she explained. After the release Zola Jesus performed at the SXSW festival, for her second time.
The Valusia EP was also released on Sacred Bones in 2010. LA Vampires Meets Zola Jesus EP, the collaboration with Amanda Brown of Pocahaunted, presented "a dingy, lower-than-lo-fi sound and very little of what one would call traditional songwriting," according to Pitchfork review.
Zola Jesus's second full-length release was Stridulum II. Although regarded as her debut album in the UK, this album simply combines all six songs from the Stridulum EP (in different sequencing) with three of the four songs from the Valusia EP; the cover art is modified from the cover of Stridulum. It received 8/10 from the NME which praised Danilova's classically trained voice as "the deadliest weapon in her arsenal" and called the album "dark masterpiece". Both NME and Q declared her one of the names to watch out for in 2011.
Zola Jesus's third LP, her second album of new material was Conatus, released in late September 2011 via Sacred Bones. The album's 11 tracks were produced by Brian Foote (aka Nudge: Jackie-O Motherfucker, Cloudland Canyon) and Danilova herself, including elements of cello, double bass, violin, and viola. She was featured on Issue #76 of the Fader.
She provided guest vocals on the song "Intro" by M83 from their 2011 album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. She also sang on "New France" by Orbital, from their 2012 album Wonky.
On August 19 (20th in the US), 2013, Versions (Sacred Bones Records), the set of neo-classical reworkings of previous releases from Nika Roza Danilova in a collaboration with producer JG Thirlwell, is to be released. Fanart Banner