[sic] Magazine

Zola Jesus – Stridulum EP

When Former Ghosts released their really rather good debut last year, some reviewers (no names mentioned) spuriously questioned their status as a valid supergroup. Sure, they comprised of the excellent Xiu Xiu front-man Jamie Stewart , as well as Freddy Rupert of also-rans This Song Is A Mess But So Am I , but they seemed to lack a true superstar.

Despite Nika Roza Danilova ‘s moments on Fleurs being the unquestionable highlights – her dramatically gothic vocal stole the show against Stewart’s curious Casio arrangements – and despite well-received Zola Jesus releases, she and Zola Jesus remained relative unknowns. The Stridulum EP is fast rectifying this mistake.

Lead sample “Night” is full of disturbing whispers, rattling drums and downtempo, synth-driven almost-pop. It shimmers darkly as the EP’s catchiest moment. Again, it is Danilova’s voice that grabs the headlines. Intriguingly deep, it builds into a soaring icon supported by fluttery echoes and atmospheric hooks. “Trust Me” slows the pace dripping in beats-led melancholy and affecting drum-machine patterns that continue well into “I Can’t Stand”.

The heights of “Night” aren’t quite reached again, but a familiar and welcome format becomes evident in its place. Each track starts in hushed atmospherics. Backed by sparse beats and echoing drumming they each build into large-scale, electro-bred goth-rock. The title track has all the black-lined brooding of Siouxsie Sioux and Danilova can certainly wail appropriately. Her huge lungs are easily enough to send a roost of Florences and her ilk scuttling for cover. The iconic organ, stadium-sized drumming and ecclesiastical chorus of “Run Me Out” are simply breathtaking, whereas “Manifest Destiny” happily repeats the same tricks only minus organ.

At its heart, the Stridulum EP is a collection of power-Goth love ballads tempered with simmering synth and throughout its six tracks it can’t help but charm. Leaving behind their former lo-fi sound, Zola Jesus bathe awkwardly but gloriously under glossy production and immaculate songwriting. And what’s more, they’ve uncovered a true superstar amongst their ranks.

The Stridulum EP is out now on Sacred Bones.

Former Ghosts – Album Review