It looks promising on paper.
Nika Roza Danilova is a young gal trained as an opera singer, but has a penchant for bombastic gothic pop songs. She released a string of good EPs and now a full-length album.
But it doesnâ€™t seem to work on record.
For sure Zola Jesus creates a hell of an atmosphere on Conatus with a haunting voice, booming drums, and walls of icy synths, but thereâ€™s a curious lack of hooks. Not that it has to be catchy, but each song seems to rely on the same instrumental formula with nothing to distinguish one track from the next. I find it another case of the style-over-substance new wave nostalgia train so many are riding these days.
Not even Danilovaâ€™s voice helps break the monotony; while it certainly has bravado, it seems to alternate only between hushed and soaring, time and time again, displaying little dynamic range outside those two points. In fact, she ultimately sounds quite diva-ish; a cross between Siouxsie Sioux and Christina Aguilera.
After a few listens, I canâ€™t quite recall what each song sounds like. But things do start to pick up a little by the end, and the last group of songs leave a mark â€“ â€œIn Your Natureâ€ gets close to transcendence, â€œShiversâ€ is great neo-ew wave, â€œSkinâ€ is an effective low-key ballad, and even â€œCollapse” is a nice closer. But itâ€™s still a bit too little too late.