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Boomkat Product Review:
Nika Roza Danilova returns with the long-awaited follow-up to Stridulum II, and finds her in especially accessible but uncompromising form. Certainly she's not jettisoned the weirdness that makes her so striking: tracks like 'Swords' and 'Ixode' fall somewhere captivating between haunted Grouper-esque drone-folk and minimal techno, while 'Avalanches''s 90s MTV power-balladeering becomes something altogether more eldritch with the deployment of chilly reverb and impertinently pattering industrial percussion. With their tension between uplifting, almost trancey chords and spikier, gothier chamber strings, 'Hikikomori' and 'Lick The Palm Of The Burning Handshake' both have a claim to being called this album's answer to 'Sea Talk'. As ever, Zola's constant hunt for emotional climax doesn't always bear fruit (and leads to the odd overblown moment that sounds a bit like The Cranberries), but in our godless, unromantic age her unabashed bids for transcendence are to be applauded - we defy you not to shed a little tear when experiencing album closer 'Collapse', which is gospel by way of minimal wave. Some of the most affecting moments are the most breezy, as on unreconstructed synth-pop 'Seekir, and you really get a sense of how insouciantly brilliant Danilova can be on 'Shivers', a crazily powerful combo of imploring vocal, hanging pads and epic 4AD dynamics balanced on a crudely effective stepping rhythm bashed out on the nearest available drum machine. If what made Zola Jesus exciting in the past was her not quite knowing what she wanted to be, Conatus is the sound of her establishing her own coherent identity, one that reconciles her experimental tendencies with her pop ambitions. An unarguably big, big album.