ZOLA JESUS – “Arkhon” (2022)
Sacred Bones Records/Konkurrent
Review by Warren Mayocchi
Zola Jesus has a voice showcased in every song shared with us over, what will now be, a six-studio album career. There is the familiar and distinctive approach that I call from the heart. To a casual listener, the voice has a melancholy tone which can leverage well to convey the harder side of life. However, there is an ambiguous power, whose voice resonates with the listener and can be confronting, comforting, or uplifting depending on the individual’s mood. Pairing it with sublime musicianship and song crafting, her empathic quality is an incredible talent is which makes every Zola Jesus album is an event.
“Arkhon” opens with the first single, “Lost”. In the context of the whole album, it is reflective of a theme based on rhythm. There is a primal beat in the second half of “Lost” which is brilliantly effective in unison with the voice. Then, the rhythm continues in one form or another throughout “Arkhon”. And it is just worth listening through a full playing of the album to notice the thematic variations.
Following we have the second track, which is my current favorite, is “The Fall” with a captivating bassline groove. Atmospheric drumming arrives with “Undertow”, a driving beat in “Sewn”, and so it goes. Here it is to note that rhythm is not a dominating feature on “Arkhon”. But there is much happening within each song.
And the pairing of rhythm and voice is simply an effective medium for the experience of Zola Jesus. When the rhythm is devoid throughout the album, the contrast is vibrant. With minimal piano backing, the second single from “Arkhon”, “Desire”, provides us with the intense capabilities of the voice – in this case, rhythm is also present in the form of simple repeated lyrical content.
Indeed, translated Arkhon means ‘ruler’ or perhaps ‘a status or power’. Listening to the rhythms of the album combined with the resonating voice is a grounding experience. The beautiful monochromatic album cover art is a possible analogy for finding patterns within chaos. In the end, all one can say is here we have another masterwork by Zola Jesus.
- The Fall
- Into the Wild
- Dead & Gone
- Do That Anymore