Zola Jesus’ first Melbourne show presents an epic, iconoclastic sound, full of dark evocative beauty.
Straight from an appearance at Sydney’s VIVID Live festival, Zola Jesus (AKA classically trained musician Nika Roza Danilova) arrived in Melbourne to a sold out, dedicated crowd of appreciators at the intimate environs of The Toff.
As the glitchy soundscape of album opener ‘Swords’ begins from behind the Toff’s requisite red curtains, smoke spills into the warm room. The crowd crawl closer as the ambient mix emitting from the stage ushers Danilova and her fellow band members on stage.
Danilova, a petite synth-pop songstress with an impeccable sense of singularity, works the entire space with all her might for the entire set. A self-confessed sufferer of anxiety, she displays a fearless dexterity as the minute 23-year-old unleashed her booming voice.
Controlling her surroundings, pacing from one side of the stage to the other, scrambling upon amps to boost her height, Danilova holds eye contact with various audience members with a glare that pushes you into a fractured underworld, a world encased by the echoes of eternity where her ethereal sounds reside.
Bathing primarily in the sounds of recent release, Conatus (2011), Danilova’s aching timbre counters perfectly with the cool blue stage lights, flashing strobes and dry ice which ensconces the entire room. As live musical pieces, ‘Avalanche’, ‘Collapse’ and ‘Shivers’ translate with a groove-laced edge, yet it isn’t until the squealing violin shivers of crowd favourite ‘In Your Nature’ that the audience really start reacting to the incessant oceanic beats. At one point Danilova leaves the stage, carving a path through the crowd whilst continuing to sing, and shares a lingering dance with a lucky member of the audience before heading back on stage.
The manicured three-piece band form a tight support network throughout with an extra special mention to violinist Christiana Key, who offers a perfect bittersweet counterbalance to Danilova’s chilling tones. Witnessing Zola Jesus live, it’s a chance to hear Danilova’s voice take on an alarming, naive clarity that exhibits a complexity worthy of the emotions her songs expel. The hour-long set presented a performer creating music that greets listeners with an icy austerity but feels as gentle and exciting as a warm kiss on a winter’s night.