It's rare that an album is inspired by a single live performance but such has been the case with the new Zola Jesus effort. Having been invited to perform at the Guggenheim Museum last year, Zola Jesus teamed up with JG Thirlwell to transform her largely electronic-led offerings into something more grandiose and orchestral. The result was stunning. And now appears in a newly recorded album, 'Versions'.
Nika Roza Danilova (the woman behind the Zola Jesus guise) has always possessed an incredibly emotive voice. In collaborating with JG Thirlwell and Mivos Quartet, her voice becomes "more powerful than you could possibly imagine". (To paraphrase 'Star Wars'.) The beauty of the orchestration proves both triumphant and emotionally crippling, in almost equal measure.
From the opening bars of stirring majesty on opening track, 'Avalanche (Slow)', we are led down a route seeping in melodrama and misery. It's not all doom and gloom though, as the hopeful 'Sea Talk' and the fearsome 'Night' prove, while there's often a sense of a quietly uplifting undercurrent.
'Versions' isn't an album that requires any prior Zola Jesus knowledge. Indeed, it may be best if you aren't familiar with her previous work to allow you to appreciate the magnificence. (Although you can compare the different recordings of 'Avalanche' in this post, if you wish.) 'Versions' is a sublime record, emboldening Zola Jesus' already impressive back catalogue, and adding a strong new track in the form of 'Fall Back'.
'Versions' is out now, available to purchase at amazon.co.uk. Find more info at zolajesus.com.