Zola Jesus - Arkhon Music Album Reviews

Zola Jesus - Arkhon Music Album Reviews
Nika Roza Danilova’s sixth record is more collaborative, widening the scope of her music and taking big leaps while retaining its primal, gothic spirit.

Nika Roza Danilova has spent over a decade crafting an auteurist vision of experimental pop. Over that time, her music has evolved dramatically even as its central tenets have remained steadfast: pitch black tone, the force of Danilova’s voice, a preoccupation with death on both a quotidian scale and a cosmic one. Her music, the vast majority of it self-produced, is the result of a dogged pursuit of a specific vision.

In the years following the release of her fifth album Okovi, Danilova began to question that line of thinking entirely. Spurred by a growing socialist consciousness—as evidenced on her Twitter account, which she uses to criticize and question the growing influence of big tech in the music industry—Danilova began to wonder whether her once individual process was just another manifestation of capitalism’s atomizing and isolating nature. “There’s so much exploitation and subjugation that is keeping humanity from collaborating and living in a more holistic way,” she said earlier this month. “[The industry] is siloing musicians through this auteurism where we’re all supposed to be these individual islands of artistic genius. So we’re not being encouraged to collaborate.”

On Arkhon, Danilova’s sixth record, she actively tries to counter the ethos that guided her earlier work, bringing in Sunn O)))’s Randall Dunn and session drummer Matt Chamberlain to bring a collaborative spirit to a once-hermetically sealed project. The resulting album widens the scope of her music while retaining its primal, gothic spirit. Deeply concerned with the nature of artmaking itself—and, specifically, how to do it freely without naturally absorbing the impositions of a cruelly alienating world—it’s a pleasantly shapeless record, an album of experiments and small upheavals that bring new, occasionally mismatched, textures into her world.

Arkhon foregrounds its concerns from its opener “Lost,” where Danilova laments about how corporate structures continue to disenfranchise artists. “Everyone I know is lost,” she sings, her voice deep and droning, shrouded in echo. The song progresses like an incantation or fairytale, Chamberlain’s tom-heavy drumming urgent and harrowing. “Lost” introduces Arkhon as an album about Danilova’s journey towards spiritual rebirth: over the course of the record, she is “crossing the abyss into something new,” stepping into a body of water that will “give you all you want,” walking eyes-closed into a forest. Oceans and forests have always provided a fertile metaphor for Danilova—her 2014 record was called Taiga, after the kinds of harsh, expansive forests commonly found in Russia—but these instances feel more portentous, more linked to some kind of urge to return to a more organic, naturalistic way of life.

True to its transitory nature, Arkhon feels like Danilova’s first record with permeable boundaries. For the first time since 2009’s The Spoils, this album feels in conversation with broader musical culture, with Danilova seemingly more content to reference and borrow from pop music at large. Certain moments in “Undertow” obliquely interpolate Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”—perhaps the greatest pop song ever written about the corrupting lust for power—while the final third of “Into the Wild,” a slow lament set to mournful piano and abstracted percussion, feels like Danilova’s answer to FKA twigs’ “Cellophane.” “Lost” initially begins with a beat made from a sampled breath, and it plays a little like a riff on a 2-step beat, redone in Danilova’s house style. And “Desire,” the album’s thundering centerpiece, comes off as the Zola Jesus version of an Adele ballad, the gale-force of her voice imparting the song with a bracing sense of catharsis.

Not all of these moments work—the FKA twigs-y section of “Into the Wild” is so similar to “Cellophane” that it feels galling—but on the whole, they do a lot to crack the surface of a project that could once feel cool to the touch. In fact, many of Danilova’s most significant experiments do fail: Chamberlain’s drumming, in particular, feels largely misused here, with the booming kit employed on “The Fall” and “Efemra” totally obliterating any nuance. In these moments, Danilova feels totally anonymous, like another stadium-aspirant star unable to compete with the production around her. It’s a shame, as some of the songs that suffer most from this heavy-handedness are also Arkhon’s most promising: The lyrics of “Do That Anymore,” written about the despair Danilova felt after Joe Biden beat Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries, contain a wistful, world-weary quality that is hard to find in the music itself.

“Do That Anymore” evokes a kind of hopelessness that’s rare on Arkhon. Danilova’s lyrics here have a punky nihilism to them: “Chalk it up, we can’t change anything in this damn place,” she sings, resigned to a future of unhearing and uncaring liberalism. It’s the album’s closing track, but it’s almost like a prequel to the truths Danilova unearths across the rest of the album: Perhaps there’s a better life to be found among the wreckage big tech has brought upon the world. On “Sewn,” she offers nine words that feel like a mantra to recite on the way forward: “Carry on/Get wrong/Set it all on fire.” It’s a small but enduring flicker of hope.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Zola Jesus - Arkhon Music Album Reviews Zola Jesus - Arkhon Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Monday, July 04, 2022 Rating: 5

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