Not sure if my ears have got lazy but I’d always identified Zola Jesus more with explorative peers like Dead Luke and Peaking Lights than with the 80s UK goth that also leaks into her sound and is currently made so much of.
Taking another look at the recent Stridulum EP and it's certainly pitch black brooder vibes, though, it makes it clear the shinier synth-backed and more Fever Ray-style theatrics are more apt. And live in Edinburgh, emerging from the back of the stage with a black hood covering her entire head, the icy grandeur of her particular kind of melodrama came off reasonably powerful but also with a more oblique focus on the re-appropriated.
Even though Nika Roza Danilova’s voice was way up at the front, the minor chord synths at the back found a new and more separated feel in their nakedness and at times cheesy downwards arpeggios that for me tapped into this idea of the gothic as ham-fisted expression, furthering the used and overly theatric tropes into something more culturally oblique. This is perhaps much clearer in a live setting backed by two handsome and hipply dressed dudes (not a bad thing) where the fantastically mythed-up darkness of the records is out in the open, just two synths plus vocals, filtering the soaring melodrama of songs like “Run Me Out” into a more easily identifiable form of expression that struck me live as interested in a plastic kind of hauntedness that I’d not felt on the records. Such is Danilova’s skill, then, for flexing her own unique type of song into these ballads; insightfully splashing grey 80s smokestack industrialism into a definitely current-feeling song, vaguely experimental and interested in style as much the textures within it.
In this small and slightly scummy room, the trio pretty much never came off as emotionally remote, despite the predilection for the isolated and obviously austere in their banter-free performance. Just strong jams, big on force and intent.