In the last three years, Nika Roza Danilova has gone from being an outsider, experimental, teenage noise-maker to a fully-fledged, internationally-celebrated, electronic-pop musician. It was a huge accomplishment, and, despite her age (young), her origins (mid-western, desolate), her accelerated scholastic achievements (high school and college were each completed in three years) and her diminutive physical size (4'11", 90 lbs), she has triumphed. She has emerged as a figurehead — a self-produced, self-designed, self-taught independent woman.
Zola Jesus is not a singer, she is a musician. Zola Jesus is not a band, it is a solo project. That is not to say the people who have helped her along the way were not deeply important. Her irreplaceable live band (whose drummer Nick Johnson lends a hand on several tracks here) and her friend Brian Foote (who co-produced this album), in addition to the live string players who contribute here (Sean McCann, Ryan York), were all crucial in the process. Still, Nika is a woman who can command a room — any room — without needing a band, a stage, or even a microphone. Her voice is unmistakable; it cuts right to the core.
Conatus is a huge leap forward in production, instrumentation and song structure. The definition of the title says it all: the will to keep on, to move forward. From thumping ballads to electronic glitch, no sound goes unexplored on her new record. It is an icy exploration in refined chaos and controlled madness, an effort to break through capability and access a sonic world that crumbles as it shines.