I have been a big fan of Zola Jesus (Nika Roza Danilova) since discovering her 2011 album, Conatus, last year. Off the back of her tour, the singer was offered the opportunity to perform at the Guggenheim in New York in May 2012. Instead of sticking to her usual sparse electronic sound, she had the opportunity to work with Mivos Quartet and composer J.G. Thirlwell (Foetus) for the occasion. The result was a beautiful show of striped-back, spacious re-workings of some of her songs. And at the end of August this year, she produced an album of the tracks.
"Versions is about the bone of the music; taking approximations from past records and turning them inside out." says Danilova. "With all framework exposed, the songs are given a new medium in which to evolve and bloom into their own tiny worlds."
I enjoyed hearing familier tracks in this new guise on Versions. Hikikomori works particularly well (the original contained plenty of string synths to begin with), as does Seekir and Collapse. The arrangements are rich and dense; almost symphonic in the way they have been produced. The strings add an extra level of drama for sure.
But I can't help thinking that full appreciation of the beauty of these arrangements could only come from hearing them live. As far as the album is concerned, Versions is worth a listen, but I can see myself returning very quickly to the purely electronic stuff that she does so so well.