Zola Jesus – Avalanche (Slow)
“Versions”, Zola Jesus’ upcoming collaboration with J. G. Thirlwell, is an album comprised of ten older songs reworked for a string quartet. “Avalanche (Slow)”, a dynamic new take on the 2011 original, is a sensuous preview of the delights to come. The glacial original was a piercing industrial meditation, a monochromatic Joy Division dirge infused with the sparest hints of battered color. The new take is no less hard-hitting for its traditional accompaniment. Of course, no one should be surprised that Nika Danilova’s voice translates well to strings. The best Zola Jesus songs strip her beautiful voice to its essence, a conjuration of raw, elemental power, so it’s no shocker that “Avalanche (Slow)” is a transfixing tune. Here, though, the backing music makes for an equally interesting but very different layer of sound in which to embed her voice. The strings recreate the sense of movement carved out by the drums on the original, only in this one the effect is more holistic: the original’s jagged fusion of human and electronics is replaced with the strings’ gorgeous plunge and tumble, swirling into every part of Danilova’s delivery. The reworking has more delicacy, but also introduces a swooning, sickly sense of vertigo. It’s an exciting preview of the album to follow.