Live Review: Zola Jesus Alhambra Lounge

4 June 2012 | 2:25 pm | Brendan Telford

The nature of this music is that it’s as awe-inspiring as it is confronting, an evocative mélange of art and artifice that is nevertheless wholly immersive.

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An excited small crowd has gathered early on this wet Friday evening to see new local act Palindromes play out their brand of sonorous indie pop. It's a sound that's quite popular these days, and to that end the trio holds up fairly well, yet there's nothing here that really sets them apart, thus they end up sounding like any number of synth-laden acts running around. There is warmth inherent in their sound, however, and with more time could grow into something stronger.

That said, Palindromes have more in common with the headlining act than Brisbane's purveyors of dark-yet-addictive noise pop Blank Realm. Whilst their psych beginnings lick at their heels from time to time, this set is as evident as any that the quartet have long outgrown the wig-outs for more salubrious fare, albeit with a strong sense of manic angularity, and are all the more alluring for it. Mainstay, Falling Down The Stairs, gets the burgeoning crowd moving, as does Sarah Spencer's hair-whipping antics behind the keys. Starting with hoodie drawn, Dan Spencer hunkers over his kit, yet drops the jumper as things get going. The new setup at the Alhambra Lounge is used to full effect here, procuring one of the best sounding sets of the band for some time. Calculated pop shambolism at its finest.

When Nika Rosa Danilova – aka Zola Jesus – walks onstage, accompanied by band, it is hard to see her diminutive frame over the crowd: but there is no mistaking that voice. Her brand of gothic orchestral pop is foreboding and raw, and tonight's show perfectly embodies this. In the past Danilova has commanded the stage on her own, yet with instrumentalists at her back, not only does it amplify the compositions tenfold, it allows her to anchor herself into her vocal performance – and what a voice it is. Deceptively strong, she projects across the audience with a force and intensity that is often breathtaking in its audacity and potency. She sticks close to latest album, Conatus, with a few Stridulum gems thrown in the mix. The heavy percussive blasts that accompany Sea Talk serve to ratchet up the tension, forcing an aural claustrophobia upon the audience, making it hard to breathe. The addition of a violinist to the fray further augments the Siren-esque nature of Danilova's voice. Lick The Palm Of The Burning Handshake is another song that benefits from the live band, propelling Danilova's voice like a trebuchet, a spectral tour de force.

The nature of this music is that it's as awe-inspiring as it is confronting, an evocative mélange of art and artifice that is nevertheless wholly immersive. Danilova is a passionate performer, and although hovering near the mic stand rather than storming the stage, she projects pure emotion in an undiluted state. When she finally takes her leave there's a moment of near silence – the air in the room is sucked out by her absence, such a vacuum her strong performance has created. An incredible show from an incredible artist.

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