After presenting the definitive version of Zola Jesus’ beautifully noisy, lo-fi goth pop with 2009’s The Spoils, Niki Roza Danilova broadened her sound with a series of EPs in 2010. Stridulum and Stridulum, Vol. 2 found her shying away from the darkest, harshest aspects of her music and showcasing her rich vocals and talent for atmosphere instead. Valusia takes another step in that direction, with Danilova re-recording Stridulum, Vol. 2's bonus tracks with producer Chris Coady. Coady’s influence is immediately apparent on “Poor Animal,” an icy shard of synth pop that would be considered dark for almost any artist except Zola Jesus. Its crystalline synths and towering beats recall Coady’s work with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but Danilova’s formidable vocals sound arguably even more alien in these relatively tame surroundings. Though she touches on her previous work with “Tower”’s downward melody and dense sonics, most of Valusia is softer and gentler than anything Danilova has made before, particularly on the sweet piano ballad “Lightsick” and “Sea Talk,” which plays like a more upbeat cousin of Elisabeth Fraser’s version of “Song to the Siren” for This Mortal Coil. Though this direction might be unsatisfying to Zola Jesus fans hankering for more of The Spoils’ brutal beauty, Valusia shows that Danilova is versatile as well as distinctive, and can find many ways to show off her impressive talents.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares