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zola jesus - Stridulum II
2010 has seen the rapid ascension of Zola Jesus to front a new wave of gothic synth pop. The 'Stridulum EP' was released to the US market earlier in the year to huge acclaim from Pitchfork, and now finally receives a European edition, bulked up with three extra tracks to make an album proper. Zola, real name Nika Roza Danilova, emerged from the relative wilderness of Wisconsin, USA, studying opera from a young age before succumbing to the vices of pop, no-wave industrial classics and the avant-garde. This nurtured the exquisitely dark and resplendent sound of 'Stridulum', probably her defining release to date. Following more lo-fi releases for Aurora Borealis, Sacred Bones and Die Stasi among others, she's now afforded a proper studio setting to really give flight to her professionally trained vocals. Opener 'Night' is the awe-inspiring result, placing epically reverbed vocals in the centre of martial industrial rhythms and towering synthpop chord changes almost guaranteed to take your breath away. Together with a blackened string section, this formula is the basis for each of the six tracks from the original version, while the newer compositions perhaps have a slightly more sludgy darkwave aesthetic, found in the sluggishly grinding 'Tower' and the depressed New Order synths of new single 'Sea Talk'. However, this isn't a formula we can imagine getting tired of any time soon, as it acutely affects us with each and every listen, seemingly reinforcing the fact that this is one of the finest long players you're going to encounter this year. From Fever Ray to Cold Cave, lovers of black lit, emotive pop music are in danger of falling in love with this album from the first listen. Awesome.