Among many other things, Vera Sola is a poet, composer, Harvard literature scholar, and – of course – a songwriter. Although she’d written her own material over the years, it wasn’t until last year that she shared her music with another living soul. After serving as a touring member with Elvis Perkins’ band, Sola holed herself up in Native Sound Studio in St. Louis to record her songs for the first time ever, resulting in her debut album Shades, which she’ll self-release on Nov. 9. In the spirit of found object art, Sola used everything from bones to glass and filing cabinets to flesh out the folk arrangements she was creating.
The original version of the album’s single “The Colony” features Sola crooning with a vicious vibrato over brooding instrumentation that feels like it could’ve come from a long-lost spaghetti western classic. Sola was inspired to write the song after witnessing the native water protectors at Standing Rock, singing from the perspective of colonizers venturing to what’s now known as North America and claiming, defiling the land. The clatter of the rhythms and Sola’s merciless perspective of white colonialism is powerful in itself, but now the song has found itself diving even deeper into darkness.
Zola Jesus’ take on “The Colony” embraces the sinister edge stewing in Sola’s original song, unearthing swells of distorted bass drums and turning Sola’s voice into a ghostly haze. The pulse of the rhythms rattles viciously, shaking wildly alongside Sola herself. It creates a tension that’s drawn out throughout the entirety of the song, finally opening up to a clamor of beats erupting near the end. It’s hard to think of an artist more adept at breaking apart Sola’s already stirring work – performing a musical biopsy that stays true to the original’s core while and opening up new aural paths to the spirit of Sola’s work.
Listen to the remix and the original version of “The Colony” below.
Zola Jesus plays at Day 1 of Upstream Music Festival & Summit at Little London Plane.
Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The A...
Nika Roza Danilova, a.k.a. Zola Jesus, is a Wisconsin native and recent Pacific Northwest transplant that has released stunning operatic albums of dark, cinematic electro-pop on the Sacred Bones and Mute record labels over the past five years. She stopped by KEXP to piece together a rare DJ set f...