Okovi:Additions by Zola Jesus

Release date: March 6, 2018
Label: Sacred Bones

I’ve been a fan of Zola Jesus‘ previous collaborations and rework records. The amazing string treatments Jim ‘Foetus’ Thirlwell brought to Versions and the pleasingly weird witch house dub of L.A. Vampires meets Zola Jesus. Okovi:Additions though is a less fully realised excursion, more bonus CD than stand alone project. There are possible reasons for this, after Taiga‘s push towards pop didn’t quite take, Okovi saw her lean back in to the dark goth electro thing at the heart of her music. Can’t blame a girl for wanting to wriggle out of a pigeon hole, but there seemed to be a new edge and strength to it for that commitment.

There’s four tunes here from the sessions that didn’t quite make it onto Okovi and four remixes of tracks that did. It doesn’t even pass the half hour mark so I guess it’s basically a fans only treat but that’s not to suggest there isn’t a lot to enjoy here. ‘Vacant’ is a pretty decent tune to open with but ‘Bound’ is the real pick of the bunch, a stand alone single to carry this project on its own.

Seriously though, this sounds like pop music to me, why isn’t she a more mainstream figure? Maybe it’s just the bright spot in a dark room because the prevailing mood here is one of facing down the darkness with a kind of clenched fist determination. “Bound into a stasis, Looking for a way out”. Non stop party bangers it ain’t. As if to illustrate this ‘Pilot Light’ rides on chiming piano like the calm before the storm of a Gaga power ballad, you keep expecting it to break into a massive chorus that never comes, it just winds down with increasing sadness and regret.

Bitten Wool continues this pattern, becoming even more desolate over an elegaic, circling, pattern of bell like synths and a dark rising drone. The album version of ‘Ash to Bone’ is another of these short and musically uneventful meditations, Johnny Jewel (of Chromatics and Twin Peaks renown) does pretty much as expected and turns it into a lost 80’s synth goth jam. It’s close run, but I might actually prefer his version. For ‘Siphon’, a song about a friends attempted suicide, Katie Gately (whose name is great fun to say) layers up abstracted vocal loops before dropping in it’s central refrain “Won’t let you bleed out, can’t let you bleed out” then building it into a chant, an affirmation, a prayer.

The dramatic string stabs of the original ‘Exhumed’ have recently been gracing promo clips for Danish drama Below The Surface,  Randall Dunn and Aaron Weaver of Wolves in the Throne Room do away with them and replace them with churning guitars. You totally saw that coming didn’t you? Wolves is a great band, and they take interesting approaches to their work but this is a bit basic. On the other hand it definitely works, and if you mostly make icy goth-tronica and you get a black metal band in to remix you – then this is probably what you want from it. Saving the best for last though Joanne Pollock’s take on Soak strips back the track, floating Danilova’s vocal up on delicate strings and electronic pulses. The water sounds that wash through the final verse might be an even more obvious move than Wolves’ guitars and yet it’s even more effective, it’s like she’s leading a congregation into the lake, a secular hymn of devotion and belonging. It’s a hairs on your arm stand up close. So it’s short and sweet, but the eight tracks work well together as a whole.

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