In reading about Zola Jesus most often I’ll come across comparisons to Björk or Siouxsie (and Kate Bush, and Elisabeth Fraser, and Tori Amos…). And I think those are appropriate because not only is Nika a remarkably gifted singer, but she also covers the bulk (or all?) of the songwriting and electronics programming (as does Björk, not sure about any others).
But one name that I don’t see as often mentioned in the same breath as Nika’s (maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough), but who I think is more similar to Nika in terms of vocal style and technique is Lisa Gerrard. They both have a spine-tingling, ghostly, towering wail, and also an impeccable sense of melody and pitch.
As I’m sure you know, Lisa Gerrard has had an extensive career singing on movie soundtracks in addition to her years in Dead Can Dance. Nika is the blindingly obvious heir apparent to that role, so I expect to hear lots of Nika’s voice on the big screen in the coming years, if she so desires.
For the time being, she’s working hard on the Zola Jesus albums and touring non-stop, far and wide. For this live recording, keep in mind the rest of the band. On the ZJ studio recordings, the instrumentation is limited to vocals and electronics, with only occasional accents by acoustic instruments. But the live band employs a live drummer in addition to Nika and two synth players, which gives the live sound a bit more of an aggressive edge. This duality reminds me very much of the live Young Gods albums compared to their studio recordings.
And even some of ZJ’s music itself reminds me of the Young Gods, but other stuff as well. Imagine if Lisa Gerrard in her early 20s teamed up with Sigur Rós who left their guitars and drums at home and used only electronics, but played in the same musical style as their own albums (vast, epic, expansive, with occasional low end throbbiness). And then combine that band with The Cranes when they were at their peak with both their rock recordings (Wings of Joy, Forever, Loved) and their experimental stuff (La Tragedie d’Oreste et Electre…).
I guess the point of all this is to state that I’d like to join the many others who recognize that Nika is ridiculously talented, and I expect her to accomplish many amazing things. I suggest catching ZJ as soon as you can because it’s only a matter of time before she moves up from these smaller venues she plays these days to the big festival shows. And on top of that, I expect that she’ll be in such high demand that she might not have as much time to tour in the future as she does now. Don’t sleep on Zola Jesus.
stereo board mix
Nady stereo condenser mic for room/audience
Focusrite Saffire Pro24 preamp/interface
Logic 8 for recording, editing, mixing
Soundtrack Pro for mastering