SONGS OF AN UNKNOWN TONGUE (ZARA MCFARLANE)

RELEASED 17TH JULY 2020

Favourite track: Saltwater

This album will transport you to an ancient world where we are in harmony with nature and the spirits of the past.

I hadn’t heard of East London-based artist, Zara McFarlane, but looking over her bio, she has already made quite a name for herself in the music industry winning a MOBO, an Urban Music Award and two Jazz FM Vocalist of the Year awards. Very impressive. What caught my attention was the cover art of this album and the title Songs of an Unknown Tongue which already evokes quite a supernatural, spiritual aura. I love the imagery – it’s very ‘Mother Nature’ with a woman lying on top of what appears to be mountains with large red flowers in her hair. It’s beautiful and has this powerful femininity about it.

The album opens with the song ‘Everything Is Connected’ which begins with a melody of chimes and then audio on repeat as 80s style synths build. The vocals enter are old school and calming. The percussion that comes in uses a variety of drums to create a worldly sound. The bassline melody is has this Funk element to it but the vocal harmonies and FX really layer the song well to give it variety wherever you choose to focus. The lyrics are hark back to “ancient shoulders” and the idea of intertwining and “how to remember”, linking the past to the present. ‘Black Treasure’ opens with vocal harmonies and then lighter percussion to provide a rhythm. Her vocals come in cleanly as bass joins to give it some power. I like the brass that joins the other instruments and the chorus to this is so catchy. ‘My Story’ opens with beautiful vocal harmonies and layering and then that similar worldly percussion using instruments typical of African music and vocal style echoing this too. I love the way she sings in this. It has real old soul and energy on top of the flute and the soft piano.

‘Broken Water’ opens with distorted synths quietly as audio builds in volume. The percussion is war-like in rhythm whilst the vocals build a drama. The percussion (maracas, drums) speed up to allow for it to be slightly more free and better to move to. The vocal work and layering is very spiritual almost as if they’re signing ancient poetry. ‘Saltwater’ opens with deep synth keys playing a simple melody which is then met with light, feminine vocal harmonies and background effects to make you feel like you’re outside. Her singing is stunning in this one and so calming but then build into a powerful mode when she says “you won’t let me be free”. ‘Run of Your Life’ opens with an odd audio effect that sounds like muffled microphone and then you get light percussion and harmonies. The fast-paced chaotic energy here builds tension to create the atmosphere of someone being chased.

‘State of Mind’ begins with a build of electronic synths typical of club music and then bursts in a crazy mix of percussion and instrumentals. It’s got this tropical feel to it still and it’s catchy. The variety in how it’s sung is also something that makes this song different to the rest in the album. ‘Native Nomad’ has this compilation of cutting FX which then vanish as the bass and keys come in. Her singing is back to a Jazz/Soul style in this one. The cutting sounds come back here and there but subtly. I like the chorus and the vocal layering. ‘Roots of Freedom’ opens with jazz instruments and almost the audio of a street market at night in the rain. That’s how I would imagine it anyway. When the vocals come in it’s one catchy, uplifting, powerful delivery. It’s got that traditional flute and vocal harmonies in the background to connect this to the rest of the album. The final track ‘Future Echoes’ is a beautiful songs that incorporates the sounds of the other tracks with a gorgeous vocal delivery in the chorus.  

Perfect for a car journey, easy listening or just when you want to relax and have a spa session.