Tag Archives: Zola Jesus


The Affirmations of M83

May 11th, 2012

M83 – Terminal 5 – May 10, 2012

To some, M83 has always had an uncanny resemblance to the John Hughes classic The Breakfast Club. This has nothing to do with the aesthetic reality that the band plays music with influences from the enormous synthesizers that so dominated mid-1980s pop music. Frontman Anthony Gonzalez possesses a knack for distilling human experience down to one frozen moment: a fist raised against a cloudy sky, a human story of difference and commonality, to say everything all at once, a frozen slice of self-actualization. Gonzalez’s gift for this type of tableau universality emerged immediately, taking the stage in full costume of the band’s creepy cover art from 2011 double LP Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. It was doubtful this thing, somewhere between Donnie Darko and Maurice Sendak, was Gonzalez himself (he took the stage far too quickly after the bit of theater concluded) as the character, creepy and triumphant, slowly raised his arms in a crosshatch between invocation and professional wrestling introductory pageant.

The creature departed and the band took the stage as the opening notes of “Intro” leaked from the speakers. It was simple: Bring your cover art onstage in full dress, play the first song from your most recent record—form meets function. Now everybody freeze. Some in the crowd turned to their phones starting a brief but erroneous Twitter rumor that Zola Jesus, who sings on the album version of “Intro,” was in the house and singing the hook. M83, unwitting to this secondary narrative, ran through the enormous “Teen Angst” and “Graveyard Girl,” both of which possess an even more affirming quality with live drums and, at high volume, an urging to stop commenting and simply experience.

The middle of the set slowed as Gonzalez effusively thanked the audience in his French-accented impeccable English. The band played “Reunion” and “Wait,” the latter featuring an enormous duet between Gonzalez and his female keyboardist. Everything stopped for a moment. This was what the audience wanted. Next was “Midnight City,” a song with no more than four serious notes, which appeared to lift the crowd toward the top of the room, snapping digital images against the blinking stage strobes, an attempt to save this and keep it, an aperture big enough to capture the desire to feel this affirmed always. —Geoff Nelson

Photos courtesy of Diana Wong | dianawongphoto.com

(M83 plays Hammerstein Ballroom on 10/2.)


The Voice

February 20th, 2012

Zola Jesus – Webster Hall – February 18, 2012

For all the arguments about which subcategory of Goth Zola Jesus may be a part of, the fact is it’s her instrumentation—whether it’s the discarded cheap electronics from her debut, The Spoils, or from her three-piece backing band, which includes a violin—that serves her voice. A voice that pursued classical opera training in rural Wisconsin at age 10 and battled crippling stage fright to record The Spoils at age 20. Isolated in the long country winter, the singer-songwriter combined her talent with the modest tools at her disposal to record the sparse, industrial-sounding album. It’s filled with remarkable vocals that build on female innovators like Diamanda Galás and Lydia Lunch, who combined their impressive vocal abilities with the pop sensibilities of their respective eras, something that remains unmatched in indie circles by their male counterparts.

Several albums later, that voice headlined historic Webster Hall on Saturday night. The venue has long been a part of the rave and house-music scene but it was strangely fitting for the pop experimentation on Zola’s latest, Conatus. With platinum blonde hair and draped in a sheer white full-length dress, her minimal sounds that had populated previous efforts were epically drawn out with pounding live beats and walls of pulsating, blinding LEDs. Live, the tracks changed from a personal morbid confession to a forum for publicly celebrating her melancholy romanticism. She became something like a bygone pop crooner or cabaret singer, capable of making the darkness universal and popularizing electronic avant-garde with the strength of her voice. But after the last song ended, she’d managed to transcend labels altogether. —Jason Dean