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Zola Jesus - 'Divine Ricochet' Music Series at the Guggenheim

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Friday, May 18, 2012
The third and final night of the 'Divine Ricochet' music series saw a unique collaboration between Zola Jesus, JG Thirwell and a string quartet.

Unlike my previous experience seeing Andrew Bird perform at the Guggenheim, the concert by Zola Jesus (Nika Roza Danilova) was not site specific. She did however offer up a unique collaboration with the industrial composer J.G. Thirwell and the Mivos Quartet. And she came out looking like an artist had attired her, a white dress that left her body a blank canvas drawing attention to her face, her voice and the cylindrical LED tube light wrapped around her neck. Overall, this third and final night of the Guggenheim’s ‘Divine Ricochet’ music series, though a brief performance—the show was less than one hour, people began buzzing when she didn’t start at 10 pm and internet rumors suggested she might appear with M83 playing across town—was pretty impressive.
Thirwell’s No-Wave and industrial background infused more gloom and goth into the already dark pop songs of Zola Jesus. He conducted the quartet from behind his laptop at the back of the small stage as the musicians went through the Zola Jesus repertoire, with the song “Avalanche” from Conatus starting things out. Danilova’s voice gave the line “and it all falls down” just the right amount of tremolo. Even the John Chamberlain sculptures, made from automobile parts, were likely shaking from the vibrations as her voice travelled up the spiral museum and reverberated in the rotunda’s top.

The recreation of these songs was a bit of a cathartic experience for the audience and for Danilova too I’m sure. Songs like “Seekir”, “Sea Talk”, “Hikikomori” and “Collapse” were expertly refined. Surely they will try this collaboration again somewhere else? The quartet’s masterful touches and the deep beats from Thirwell’s laptop should accompany Zola Jesus more often. But it would have to be done in an intimate venue. The white, still space of the Guggenheim’s rotunda was perfect for it allowed Danilova’s powerful voice to reach up to into the ether.

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