EP Review: Zola Marcelle, ‘done. undone. redo.’

Listen to and buy done. undone. redo. here. Streaming links here.

Photo courtesy of Zola Marcelle

Zola Marcelle’s second EP, “done. undone. redo.” is an ethereal meditation crafted from voice and bass. That unique pairing suits what the Zimbabwean, London-based singer describes as conversations between herself, society, and the Divine Power, and leaves enough space in the music for the listener to appreciate the bass’s versatility and Marcelle’s cerebral lyrics, which she smoothly conveys in deceptively difficult melodies and unexpected harmonic movement. 

In done. undone. redo.’s opening track, “Trying to Believe,” Marcelle interrogates her faith “in the age of theological and religious skepticism.” The song’s harmonies, provided by Arthur O’Hara on electric bass, are soft yet keening, keeping the listener on edge for some kind of resolve. Despite her doubts, which span both existential and political -she questions mainstream performativity of anti-racist sentiments in otherwise unchanging power structures- she speaks with assuredness in the ending, wryly recalling Kendrick Lamar’s phrase “We gon be alright,” and asserting “the history in my bloodline and the wealth and the strength that I have.”

That assertion extends into the following track, “Eternal,” which features the bassline of Zola’s close friend, Geo.  “Eternal” uses a clever rhyme structure to tell a story about a blind man and an abused woman. Geo’s electric bassline is a rhythmic counter-melody, and the breathy harmonic vocals crest into his rich solo that makes deft use of a loop pedal. On “Nath’s Song,” Nathan Bossoh accompanies a sample from Tony Evans’ ‘Thankful Always’ sermon on electric bass. Bossoh’s warm, crystalline chords add poignancy to Evans’ words on giving thanks in everything. “Gratitude” features the voice of James Aaron. O’Hara again provides sweeter harmonies around its poetic chorus (“Everything that I know, I just gotta let it go…heaven flowing on the inside”). A bit disappointingly, however, “Gratitude” abruptly ends at the two-minute mark as Aaron’s voice starts to soar amidst Marcelle’s breathy, beguiling backing, a callback to the church traditions of the previous song. 

After reflecting on the deep flaws and evils entrenched in society, and how one can thrive despite them, Marcelle finds peace in the closing track, “Beauty in the Dissonance.” Over Hunrosa’s soft, synthy arpeggios on electric and synth bass, she acknowledges from where she originated and will return. The song, like the EP overall, bears sadness but is not resigned to it, and carries a hard-won grace. done. undone. redo. was produced by Marcelle, Geo, Hunrosa, and Dreamcoat, and mixed/mastered by the latter.