Zola Jesus is now onto her third album proper, ‘Conatus’. While her previous record ‘Stridulum II’ drew compliments from critics for its bravery and gothic swoop, the follow up has garnered more tentative praise. Is Zola right to expand within a formula? Or should she have spread her wings farther? Find out after the jump.
NME’s Emily Mackay gave Conatus a firm 7/10. She felt that Zola had developed on themes from previous album ‘Stridulum II’, “‘Conatus’ represents a subtle growing into what is very much a trademark sound, with only the tiniest of mutations, polishes and tweaks. Most innovative are lead track ‘Vessel’, with a more pronounced, menacing industrial clank to offset Nika’s apocalyptic bellow, and the more upbeat, Cold Cave-ish synthpop of ‘Seekir’”. However, she felt that the developments didn’t go far enough, and could be classed as ‘shticky’ by quibblers.
The Observer’s Kitty Empire largely agrees with NME, giving ‘Conatus’ 3/5. “The term "conatus" refers to the momentum to keep evolving. But here the LA-based midwesterner sticks close to the blueprint of her past two efforts, her aching bellows of a voice gusting through mournful strings and occasionally bolder beats, as on "Shivers". It's all very accomplished, but lacking in variety.”
Rebecca Nicholson at the Guardian focuses on Zola’s drive forward, giving the album another 3/5 “Conatus is more fully formed than its predecessor: Shivers, In Your Nature and Vessel emerge as confidently weird, strident goth-pop. Danilova's juggernaut vocals can feel relentless, but considering Zola Jesus is a deliberately poised and arty affair, a little over-reaching melodrama is hardly a surprise.”
Over at Clash Magazine, Reef Younis gives the album the highest mark so far with 8/10. “on the intense, driving ‘Lick The Palm Of The Burning Handshake’ we hear Zola Jesus crystallised, heaving between the ethereal and industrial to emerge determinedly progressive. Stepping out of the shadows suits her after all.”
What do you guys think? Tell us in the comments.