EP Premiere: ZEMBU’s Debut EP ‘recall’ Offers a Spectral Journey of Self-Discovery

With symphonic fluidity and grace, indie pop rarity ZEMBU takes us on a spectral journey of introspection and connection in her debut EP, ‘recall’.
Stream: ‘recall EP – ZEMBU

As outlined in his famous novel Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl contends that “our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.” Although some people may disagree, Frankl’s theory holds true for my life and I’d even argue to stretch his theory one step forward. Not only do people constantly pursue meaning, but also vessels through which to communicate meaning – specifically their meaning – to others. For me and for many, that’s where music comes in.

When first listening to ZEMBU’s debut EP recall, I didn’t recognize what instantly drew me in, but upon closer inspection I realized this unique artist intricately communicates profound meaning, but with an airy exuberance. The balance of highs and lows steadies you, even if you didn’t realize before that you were losing your equilibrium. Today Atwood Magazine is proud to premiere indie-pop rarity ZEMBU’s debut EP recall, a spectral journey of introspection and connection (independently out March 27, 2020).

recall EP - ZEMBU
recall EP – ZEMBU © Sophie Pellegrini

Recall opens with the swimming, celestial track “10 Days.” The foundational piano strokes ground us within the meditation as the resounding drums, rising violins, and layered vocals blanket us with reassurance.

Oh, hid it so I couldn’t see
Til the shame washed over me
Oh, sat for 10 days straight
Finding meaning of this mess I made
Paralyzed by the day
You find me in the evening
Chew me up and feast upon what’s left of me
– “10 Days,” ZEMBU

ZEMBU shares that, “’10 Days’ is about a silent 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat I did about 4 years ago that was really transformational for me. As you might imagine, a lot comes up. I worked through a lot of shame and was finally able to be with what was lying dormant that needed tending to. It’s powerful – the truth that can come with 10 days of silence.” The chorus is where all the streams converge.

Sitting with myself felt like a waterfall, waterfall
Looking in the mirror, I looked away
Sitting with myself felt like a waterfall, waterfall
Looking in the mirror, I looked away
– “10 Days,” ZEMBU
ZEMBU © 2020
ZEMBU ©  Sophie Pellegrini

The image of the waterfall strikes dramatically. Waterfalls crash with a degree of violence, but they also create undeniable and tremendous beauty. The pressure of waterfalls mold unmovable stones and alter the patterns of river networks. We realize that a sincere and solitary meeting with yourself would be brutal, overwhelming, peaceful, revelatory, and transformative all at once. ZEMBU paints her encounter with self-discovery with harmonious strokes, intense crescendos, and electronic reverberations. At points, the melody calms and other moments, it’s in unruly tumult; a poignant juxtaposition with the emotions she evokes throughout her verses.

We leave “10 Days” behind, and greet ZEMBU’s first single of 2020 “Tendency” at the next turn. ZEMBU explains that this song “Is about the old tendencies that resurface when visiting home and stepping back into what was familiar during childhood and adolescence. It’s about regressing in certain environments and the process of finding grace for ourselves when we do.”

This track grows slowly, carefully, almost like it’s sneaking up on you until it catches and begins to run with a momentum you can’t halt easily. Our old habits can sometimes creep up on us like ghosts which feel indomitable and untouchable, but they don’t need to control us. As ZEMBU’s vocals echo within us, we remember that ultimately we control the tempo of our lives.

Waiting for forgiveness like times on hold
Patiently waiting for it to unfold
And I feel, I feel this tendency in me
I feel me getting shorter
Like a burning wave
– “Tendency,” ZEMBU

We all crave deep human connection, whether it be romantic or platonic, jubilant or painful, long-lasting or swift. The light, acoustic-leaning piece “Human” explores the universal deep connection to others and ourselves within ZEMBU’s reflection of losing her mother.

Watch: “Human” – ZEMBU

ZEMBU elaborates, “Human” is about the day I found out my mom died by suicide. This song was incredibly healing for me to write. It acknowledges just how human we all are – the highs and lows we all go through in this life. Sometimes the human experience is raw and difficult and it’s okay for it to be just that. My hope is that “Human” can help reduce the stigma around suicide, start conversations, and empower people to share their stories and heal in the process.”

a door opens in slow motion,
faces tell before words can be spoken
room sinks in while battling this notion,
time halts and I swear it’s my fault
And how do you tell her
she won’t say goodnight no more
simplicity comes in a haunting form
how did this, how did this ever become the norm?
– “Human,” ZEMBU

ZEMBU drives home the rawness of human experience by removing the electronic flourishes and rich beats we’ve heard throughout the rest of her work. An Atwood Magazine Editor’s Pick previously described as “a bittersweet reflection on tragedy, loss, anxiety, and more… fragile and delicate, just like our own humanity,” “Human” is bare, honest, and stingingly genuine.

ZEMBU © 2020
ZEMBU © Sophie Pellegrini

Emitting soulful and more energetic vibes, “Overgrown” embraces us with its friendly warmth. This tune is driven by resonant guitar strums and ZEMBU’s humming vivid vocals. The lyrics croon about acute familiarity and yet a distinct distance from specific places and people. ZEMBU describes, “‘Overgrown’ is about the process of returning to a place to find it’s not the same – it’s overgrown by new experiences, thoughts, and beliefs. I think of all my time spent at Lincoln Park in West Seattle and how that place has been so formative for me, yet it no longer feels like it once did.”

It’s all overgrown
Coming back close to home
Finding your way
You’ll see it’s all overgrown
– “Overgrown,” ZEMBU

Our final number “Still Around” snaps, trills, and strums us into a gentle atmosphere. “It’s about a recurring dream I used to have after my mom died when I was a teenager and this September as I was writing the EP, I had this dream four times within 3 weeks. Prior to that, I hadn’t had this dream for 8 years. I saw it as a sign to write about it. It’s about my mom and it’s meant to take listeners to a dreamlike state,” ZEMBU tells us. In “Still Around,” we find contentment within grief; we find harmony within the idea that the ones we lose won’t ever truly leave us.

Wake up to find you’re still gone
Hate it every time but I don’t care savor
through the night
– “Still Around,” ZEMBU
ZEMBU © 2020
ZEMBU © Sophie Pellegrini

Throughout recall, ZEMBU looks to the past: Her meditative retreat, home in Seattle, and loss of her mom.

These memories and experiences build up on another and culminate as this dazzling, iconic work of art. With poetic elegance, she outlines for us the transformative power of recollection as a tool for self-discovery.

In short, recall is about what you need to preserve and what you need to release; it’s about returning and reflection; and it’s ultimately about meaningful connection to yourself and to others. Thank you to ZEMBU for this utter masterpiece.

Stream recall exclusively on Atwood Magazine!

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:: stream/purchase recall here ::
Stream: ‘recall EP – ZEMBU

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main ? © Alex Woldeab
art © Sophie Pellegrini

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