Anyone’s third LP is a bit nerve-wracking; a band can so easily be propelled into a pit of post-success, from either too much of the same, or straying too far. Junior efforts tend to separate a flash in a pan from a solid evolving artist. Luckily for us, Nika Roza Danilova’s project Zola Jesus has dodged these doldrums with pure grace.
If the Spoils had Danilova singing from the bottom of a well, in Conatus, she emerges unscathed. Co-produced with Brian Foote aka Nudge (Jacki-O Motherfucker), the album is deliberate in giving space and nuance to each instrument. No longer the dense clausterphobic landscapes we’ve come to expect, songs like ‘Vessel’ evoke a barrenness. Still, she flirts with entropy, disseminating songs with mantras of industrial clang, and ambient curtains of no-fi noise. The new album even splurges into hurried dance beats with ‘Seekir’ and ‘Ixode’. Acoustic instruments too have their moment, such as, in ‘Skin’ where she dwells beautifully on a piano. For the first time, the flooded sound washing out Danilova’s vocals is contained to a tight controlled faucet. Conatus provides a sophisticated clarity to Zola Jesus’ work as a whole, brushing even past albums in new light.