Enhances the best part of the original tracks and adds beguiling elements.
The brooding, industrial and deeply personal Okovi certainly whetted fans’ appetite for more Zola Jesus after her three years of silence since Taiga. Enter Okovi: Additions, a collection of four B-sides and four remixes by other artists. Okovi’s rejects, however, are powerful tracks that show ever so slightly more experimentation from Danilova, perhaps representing too much a risk for the main album. The remixes successfully enhance the best part of the original Okovi tracks and add beguiling elements.
Imagining Additions picking up immediately after Okovi closer “Half Life” fades out, it carries through the mournful tone; “Vacant” likewise builds with nearly a minute of atmospherics. Whereas instrumental “Half Life” peppered in propelling strings for a somewhat hopeful inflection at the end, “Vacant” doesn’t necessarily dampen its darkness. Foreboding synths and sharp plucking contribute to a distrustful track that sees Danilova chant “Take what you’re given/ Follow on the road back down/ Not even Heaven knows.” While “Siphon” transitioned its industrial thrums into gated beats, “Bound” eases its metallic dance beat into the background allowing the heavy industrial noise to take center stage.
Similar to “Witness,” “Pilot Light” sees Danilova’s vocals guide, accompanied by only piano and an ethereal backing chorus. Lyrics “We’re born with all the wonder we will ever have/ And we die with all we escaped with,” show Danilova still focused on the nature of life, death and remembrance. “Bitten Wool” wraps its verses around mysterious plucked strings, repeating the same refrain ad infinitum. As Danilova puts words to her paranoia—“I’m never safe alone/ In these long lost fictions”—whistling synths echo around the hypnotic strings.
Remixes by Johnny Jewel, Katie Gately, Wolves in the Throne Room and Joanne Pollock alternately deepen the gothic eeriness of the originals and make them bewitching anthems. “Ash to Bone” could almost have been an unassuming track on Okovi, but here Johnny Jewel trades brooding cello for tribal percussion and a jittery backing synth. Danilova’s vocal also takes on a more formidable quality. Katie Gately’s remix of “Siphon” homes in on the track’s most fun element: the escalating vocal choir. Extending that choir and enriching it with static backing for two solid minutes, Gately then drops the chorus and layers all of the vocals into one cathartic climax.
Since Wolves in the Throne Room is a black metal band, they naturally draw out the darkness and anger in “Exhumed,” amplifying the industrial sounds and compounding them with heavy guitars. Danilova’s vocals turn into pulsating wails, like a soul unwittingly disturbed from slumber. Joanne Pollock’s remix of “Soak” toys around with a deceptively stripped-down opening, removing the original track’s chugging percussion. By the second chorus, however, the track begins to morph, and trickling water sounds give way to a bevy of horns and Danilova’s insistent, reassuring lyrics.
Okovi: Additions selects the best of the B-sides, thankfully releasing tracks like “Bound” and “Pilot Light” that would have been undeniably worthy of Okovi. The remixes only serve to strengthen this bonus release, each artist clearly appreciating Danilova’s vision and enhancing her tracks with their own atmospherics. Just like the main album, this collection balances the sonic range of trippy dance beats, industrial swells and classical ballads.