words by Craig Mertes
Having grown up in a small town in south central Wisconsin and then in a house where the radio was predominantly tuned either to NPR or WPR, I didn’t begin my immersion into music until the mid-nineties. My exposure to music in the eighties was limited to classic oldies and classical music. The point being, is that I don’t have a nostalgia for the aesthetics of the eighties, specifically the synth-laden new wave. This may be exactly what has caught my ear and my attention as I listen to Zola Jesus’s new full length album Conatus.
Conatus [Sacred Bones Records] is the continuation of the goth-tinged pop that Zola Jesus has been building on her previous EPs. Zola Jesus perfectly blends her beautifully haunting voice with surging and throbbing synths and drum machine lines. There is a positively electric atmosphere to this album, not in an energetic sense but in a raising-the-hair-on-your-arms-and-the-back-of-your-neck sense. As the drums get your head nodding and the synths kick in, it’s Zola Jesus’ amazing vocals that take the music to another ethereal place. Conatus is amazingly consistent and keeps the atmosphere and energy up over the course of the entire album. The two final tracks wind the album down as “Skin” features Zola Jesus’ voice over a piano with sparse synth flourishes, while “Collapse” slows things down even further to wrap the album up. The only knock may be that none of the songs clearly stand out on the album. However, the entire album is so strong that I hardly consider that a detractor. I’m definitely looking forward to what Zola Jesus has in store for us in the future.