Photo by Sumner Dilworth

When CMJ hears from Nika Roza Danilova, more widely known to those outside of her northern Wisconsin hometown as Zola Jesus, she’s just finishing up a European tour. “It’s been really incredible,” the 21-yearold, opera-trained singer enthuses. “Our driver is Italian, so we’ve been learning a lot of really useless slang and blasphemies.”

A lot of things have changed for Danilova since she decided to embody her darkly sublime musical persona on a more full-time basis. After finishing her philosophy degree (“I am interested in the study of humans, I think it’s the most practical subject one can study,” she says), she left the quietness of her hometown and, along with her fiancé, cloaked herself in the dirty sparkle of Los Angeles. For someone who adopted the name Zola Jesus so that kids at school would stop talking to her, going from solitude to constant interaction has been an adjustment. “It is stressful,” she says. “I constantly feel out of my element, but it is a part of the sacrifices I make for doing this.”

While Danilova’s album, Stridulum II, has just gotten a European release, she keeps diligently forging ahead. A four-track EP, Valusia, is due later this month. With electro beats muted to a more manageable pulse awash with murky watercolor synths, Valusia opens its lungs from Zola Jesus’ goth beginnings to breathe in light and air. Danilova initially wrote the songs to sit alongside the tracks on her Stridulum EP; it was her intention that they be of the same dark hues as the six original songs. “I’m not sure if they are similar enough or not,” she says now. “I have a hard time sticking to one idea for too long.”