Versions... Strings attached
Review: Zola Jesus & JG Thirwell feat. Mivos Quartet – Versions
Published on August 19th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Versions is a set of Zola Jesus songs reworked alongside Foetus bloke JG Thirwell, whose orchestral arrangements are given an earthly mouthpiece by the New York-based Mivos Quartet.
Sounds interesting in theory, and in practice it frequently is: the string section weaves exquisite patterns, embedding Zola Jesus’s voice in a magical secret rose garden while skittering drum machines propel the flighty flutteriness further into the realms of sweet elation.
What holds it back from achieving transcendence, though, is Zola Jesus’s vocal style. It’s too calculated, too polished, warbling like a disco diva when really it should be bursting wide open and taking flight with the music. Think Wayne Coyne on The Soft Bulletin: that sort of thing.
This slickness both grounds it and, somewhat ironically given Zola Jesus’s technical proficiency, cheapens it. The tension between her ‘nightclub heartbreak’ and the soaring strings proves to be an unresolvable mismatch, problematic when it’s virtually the sole avenue of exploration throughout these nine tracks.
Easy as it is to hear Versions as one long absence of deviation, distinctive features do regularly make themselves known amidst the relationship betwixt strings and rhythm. Their respective staccato and bounciness on “Seekir” is, in particular, a winner.
“Run Me Out” merits mention for verging on Michael Nyman; high praise indeed, and indicative of the rich musicality that courses through these experiments. A more unique voice and it could really have been something special.
Versions is out now on Sacred Bones.
Rocksucker says: Three Quails out of Five!