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Zola Jesus - Arkhon: "a feast of many flavours"

Darkwave vocalist delivers stunning sixth album.

Zola Jesus
(Image: © Sacred Bones)

Zola Jesus has often been filed under “gothpop”. It’s a reductive term for such a challenging yet accessible artist, who sounds here like the heiress to the throne of Elizabeth Fraser or Lisa Gerrard, yet also like nobody but herself. 

Her sixth album gets exceedingly dark, and braves some Stygian, sunless terrain. However, her own claim that she grew up influenced by Mariah and Aaliyah makes sense too: Arkhon is a feast of many flavours. The difficulty of categorising her may cost her commercially, but this is a record that swells and grows each time you hear it. She remains a fascinating, fearless talent. After a spell of angsty writer’s block,
she relocated her groove – or found a new one – by collaborating with Sunn O))) producer Randall Dunn and Bowie/Dylan percussionist Matt Chamberlain. That released her tension, so while Arkhon is still an ocean of pain and powering through, it also exhibits playfulness and light. Whether it’s the anti-gospel chants and chugging of Lost or the rippling, ghostly funk of Undertow, this presents as both mood and momentum. The stark Desire reveals a soulful spectre of a voice. Truly outstanding.

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Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.