Zara McFarlane Ruminates on Black History on Fourth Album for Brownswood
'Songs of an Unknown Tongue' LP is scheduled for July 17 release via Brownswood Recordings.
Songs of an Unknown Tongue is McFarlane’s fourth album, after 2017’s Arise. The UK label describes it as “a rumination on history and black heritage” which speaks in richly patterned electronic beats and McFarlane’s characteristically crystalline vocals.
Across 10 tracks, McFarlane, a British jazz and pop singer, reflects on her journey into the folk and spiritual traditions of her ancestral motherland, Jamaica. She spent a month and a half in the country researching early Jamaican folk music and rituals, visiting the grave of the great Jamaican female warrior Nanny of the Maroons, and meeting experts.
Trawling through black history archives at The National Library of Jamaica and the Institute of Jamaica in Kingston for audio and video samples led her to discover an array of rhythms associated with old Jamaican rituals, and although initially she struggled to differentiate between them, slowly the rhythms began to speak to her. “I listened really carefully, deeply, and began to hear the emphasis and accents,” she says.
Back home in London, McFarlane collaborated with producers Kwake Bass and Wu-Lu to deconstruct the elements of the folk rhythms from her research and transfer them into new formats. Moses Boyd, who produced McFarlane’s last album, introduced McFarlane to Kwake, who fell for the concept immediately.
We’re told that while each track has a story of its own, the album overall speaks not only to Jamaican folk histories but to contemporary issues of empire, colonialism, race, and identity.
A1. Everything Is Connected
A2. Black Treasure (Vinyl Edit)
A3. Broken Water (Vinyl Edit)
A4. Run Of Your Life (Vinyl Edit)
A5. Saltwater (Vinyl Edit)
B1. My Story (Vinyl Edit)
B2. Native Nomad (Vinyl Edit)
B3. State Of Mind (Vinyl Edit)
B4. Roots Of Freedom
B5. Future Echoes
Songs of an Unknown Tongue LP is scheduled for July 17 release via Brownswood Recordings. You can pre-order here, and stream “Future Echoes” in full below.