COVER FLOW: In Case You’re Wondering, the Crude Oil On Zola Jesus’ Face Is Chocolate Syrup

[Photo by Indra Dunis]

As much as we dug the dirt-encrusted mood music of Zola Jesus‘ breakthrough LP, The Spoils (Sacred Bones, 2009), Nika Roza Danilova’s new EP is something else–a flirtation with full-on pop songs, buoyed by dark ambient samples and skeletal beats that sound like they’re knocking your door down rather than being reduced to dust. (In many ways, Danilova’s early songs mirror the brash but brutal bedroom productions on Cold Cave‘s Cremations compilation. And her music is changing for the better just as quickly.)

If you ask Sacred Bones, Stridulum is a “siren song for the apocalypse.” Which sounds about right. It’s also a record that isn’t afraid to address relationships with rather literal lyrics like, “It’s not easy/To fall in love/But if you’re lucky/You just might find someone.” As tired as those lines may look on paper, they sound gorgeous in the context of a Zola Jesus song, mostly because Danilova’s classically-trained voice–she’s just 20 years old, but already sounds ready to clobber concert halls–cuts right through her minimal compositions. Mark our words: this girl will be one of the breakthrough acts of SXSW next week, and one of 2011’s most anticipated albums. Hell, we’re already counting down the days.

Since Stridulum‘s record sleeve is just as striking as the music within, we asked Danilova to explain just what’s dripping down her face. Turns out it’s not an oil spill after all…

The cover for Stridulum was inspired by a scene from one of my favorite films (DuÅ¡an Makavejev’s Sweet Movie, from 1974), as well as my love for chocolate. The scene is of a model in a bath of chocolate–swimming it in, spreading it all over herself…having an all-around pretty sensual time with the chocolate.

The shoot was done in my bandmate’s bathroom. It was shot by my good friend Indra Dunis, who shot the cover for my last LP, The Spoils. It was incredibly satisfying to feel chocolate syrup run down my entire body, but at the same time, it was seriously terrifying. What you don’t realize is how quick the syrup closes in on all of your orifices and refuses to let you breathe, talk, hear, open your eyes…it becomes like a chocolate membrane closing you in. – Nika Roza Danilova