Live Reviews

Live Review: Zola Jesus at CAMP Basement in London on 1 Sep

By | Published on Tuesday 14 September 2010

Zola Jesus

A couple of hundred gig-goers stuffed into a tiny basement underneath an arts cafe makes for a very sweaty and cramped night, something that young Arizona-born Nika Danilova – also known as Zola Jesus – found out as she bravely climbed offstage to sing amongst the crowd.

This gig was about as intimate as gigs get, and I fear it may be one of the last shows this young lady will play in such a small venue. Already garnering a ton of whispers of excitement amongst music lovers and critics alike, the opera-trained singer is destined to move beyond tiny gigs and support (she has just finished touring with none other than the excellent Fever Ray).

Synthy, dark and intense, the kind of music that Zola Jesus plays is reminiscent of the great days of swampy gothic rock, when Siouxsie Sioux was queen and Christian Death, The Cure and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry were the posterkids of choice. As I uttered under my breath to my companion prior to Ms Danilova’s appearance onstage, it felt like I’d fallen into the scene of a Poppy Z Brite novel (which, my sixteen year-old self told me, is not a bad thing at all). Personally, I would compare Zola Jesus’ dramatic, dark operatic sound to that of a lesser known now-defunct band Switchblade Symphony, who I urge you to check out if you haven’t already.

Danilova hammered through a dozen songs without a peep or a pause, making her way through the excellent ‘Stridulum II’ and peaking with probably her most recognisable and commercially successful track ‘Night’. Her voice shook me with how strong it was – over a barrage of loud synths and pulsing drum loops, she didn’t drop a note or lose any of her seductive swagger. Beautifully strange and strangely beautiful; catch her before she’s huge. TW

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