LiveJournal Twitter MySpace Last FM Facebook

The Haxan CloakZola Jesus
The Haxan Cloak
CAMP Basement, London
Wednesday September 1 2010


With a name like CAMP Basement I was expecting - no, I was hoping - tonight's venue would be all frills and flounces. But it's not. Quite the reverse, in fact. CAMP in this instance stands for the City Arts And Music Project, and their basement is all bare concrete and air-con ducts. I think the interior designer must've opened the catalogue at Post-Industrial Bleak. Still, it's an appropriate venue for music that doesn't exactly beat you over the head with a happy stick, so let's bring the noise.

The Haxan Cloak turns out to be one man, an array of effects pedals, and a guitar - which seems to be used simply to put in a signal. He generates a humming, buzzing, thrumming sonic fog, which is engaging enough if you're prepared to get all Zen about it, and just soak up the sound as if there's wisdom in those wires.

But this kind of performance tends to fall flat for me - partly because there isn't a performance. Everybody dutifully faces the stage and gawps, but there's nothing to see. Unless, of course, you find the sight of a bloke crouched over strung-together technology especially rivetting.

The other drawback is that I suspect, given the same array of techs 'n' effects as Mr Haxan Cloak is using, and half an hour to fart about with them, I could make much the same racket all by myself. That thought does tend to undermine any sense of cosmic wonder. There's a moment of dramatic tension when Mr Cloak knocks over his can of Stella, and floods his effects pedals with premium-brand lager, but I don't think that was in the script. It certainly breaks the meditative mood, mind. Perhaps he should do it more often.

Flanked by her keyboard-blokes, Zola Jesus appears unassuming and downbeat - not a surprise to those of us who've caught her live before, and thus know that unassuming and downbeat is just how she rolls. But there's a packed crowd in tonight, enticed by the gratifyingly high levels of media interest Zola Jesus has attracted. The single, 'Night', is all over BBC 6 Music, and I wonder how many people have been bowled a googly by the towering dramatics of the music, and are expecting something like a Florence And The Machine-style extravaganzo-pop carnival? But Zola Jesus doesn't need to surround herself with theatrics. She's got The Voice, and that's all she needs.

Zola JesusSomehow this bleak basement accentuates the frozen tundra of the Zola Jesus musical landscape. The music swells and billows, as if funnelled up from some subterranean ocean. Zola herself rides the synth-waves, confident but self-contained.

She gives us the Stridulum-based set we heard in Brighton last night, but tonight 'Trust Me' seems even more stripped to the bone, conjuring a feeling of sparse austerity even as the music surges behind the vocal. 'Sea Talk' is like cold spray breaking over the promenade on a hot day, while 'Night', that minimalist anthem to hope in the heart of darkness, has a seductive sway.

Zola Jesus plunges into the crowd, which closes around her - it's almost as if she's trying to remove herself from the performance altgether, and simply leave her voice and the music to make it happen.

 But then she's back, for a taut, wired, 'Manifest Destiny', in which she paces the stage with increasing agitation, and then - in the very final moment of the song - hurls a beer bottle at the back wall of the venue. It shatters exactly at the moment the final note sounds. She couldn't have timed the sudden smash better if she'd pre-programmed it. It's a dramatic way to break the mood, to trash the trance, to snap us all out of the reverie. Perhaps it signals the moment when Zola Jesus becomes Nika Roza Damilova again. Or it could just be her way of putting a full stop to the night. "Thank you," says Nika Roza, polite and matter-of-fact. And maybe the frozen tundra has ever so slightly thawed.


Zola Jesus: Website | MySpace | Facebook

The Haxan Cloak: Website | MySpace | Facebook

For more photos from this gig, find Zola Jesus by name here.

Find a Zola Jesus interview and album review in Issue 9 - in the Archive.

Search Nemesis To Go
Page credits: Review, photos and construction by Michael Johnson. Nemesis logo by Antony Johnston. Red N version by Mark Rimmell.
Creative Commons LicenseWords and photos in Nemesis To Go by Michael Johnson are licenced under Creative Commons. You may copy and distribute this material, or derivations of it, provided that you give a credit to Michael Johnson and a link to Nemesis To Go. Where material from other sources is used, copyright remains with the original owners. All rights in the name 'Nemesis To Go' and the 'N' logo are retained.