Zola Jesus is the stage name of Nika Roza Danilova, who has released in quick succession a number of albums, the most recent before this one being 2011's "Conatus". Now comes this reimagination of her earlier work
"Versions" (10 tracks; 41 min. ) was recorded at the tail end of her tour in support of "Conatus". The Guggenheim Museum in New York approached her to perform, and Danilova chose to radically reinvent the arrangements of her catalog by bringing in the Mivos Quartet. The result is this album, which stands in contrast to her earlier albums, not only because the outright classical nature of the album, but also as it spotlights Danilova's voice and lyrics more than ever before, check out the opener "Avalanche (Slow)", one of six tracks on here which first appeared on "Conatus". It is followed by "Fall Back", a brand new song, in which she croons "In the dark/I feel you around me/In this clouded mess/You surround me", wow. The only track that ventures out from the strict "chamber music" format is the album's closer "Vessel", which rocks more or less. In all this is quite the album. To be clear: if you don't like classical (chamber) music, do yourself a favor and stay away from this. I found this album to be quite the eye-opener, and heard Zola Jesus in a way I had never heard her before.
I had the good fortune of seeing Zola Jesus in concert here in Cincinnati in early 2012 when she was touring in support of "Conatus", and what an incredible show that was. Backed by a keyboard player, an electronic viola player and a percussionist, Danilova put on a fabulous show, being a woman possessed it seemed. Great, great show. Meanwhile, for something very different yet equally intriguing, I readily recommend "Versions" to you.