Songs like ‘Vessel‘ are ideally played somewhere with a bit of space. A few acres to soak up the sound. A stadium arena would be nice, but a forest spread across a mountain might be more fitting. This music has something of the night and the wild about it.
You can hear the electric purr of The Cure; Joe Meek’s mad, eerie studio recording techniques; even a little of haunting blues spirituals of the early 20th century.
For all the picking out of ‘Vessel’s musical origins, it never feels crowded or derivative. This wintry, futuristic dirge is in a class of its own. It makes sense then, that it’s Zola Jesus behind this synthy wasteland of a song; this sound-tracking of howling wildernesses is practically her trademark, and she doesn’t let you forget it.
‘Vessel’ has that rare quality of presence, thanks largely to Zola’s echoey, ethereal voice. Like Lissa Gray in ‘Johnny, Remember Me‘, she sounds like a ghost trapped in a recording, singing in shimmers and looped stutters, reaching out to the listener.
With the last soulful notes fading, you half wonder if you really just heard what you heard. It’s an odd sensation, but it’s a sensation that compels you to hit the replay button quite a lot. Here’s to oddness and anthemic ghost vocals.