Finding Foundations, Vol. II (ep)
630113 Records DK
Yes, she is the daughter of the legendary vocalist Bobby McFerrin. That means she’s also the brother of Taylor McFerrin – and their grandfather was the opera singer, Robert McFerrin; the first African-American man to sing at the famed Metropolitan Opera in New York City. And Madison is making music that is – broadly – in the same genre as her father’s famous creations; she is an a capella vocalist.
Where her brother’s debut album felt like too much thrown at the wall, Madison McFerrin is taking her time to build her sound, if you’ll pardon the pun there. This is her second EP, releasing just three tracks at a time. Finding her sound inside these songs.
Shine, the opener, begins with a chorus of wordless tones, think back to Prince’s opening track on his debut album. But then the full voice arrives, bringing with it the actual song. And we’re in the modern R’n’B worlds of Lizz Salt and Erykah Badu and (even) Janelle Monae. These are richly layered pieces, a kind of minimalism made over into maximalism, or made from it; the song revealed as our ears chisel away at the depths of what is being built up, just McFerrin’s own voice, over and again, via a loop pedal.
There’s the vocal percussion thing too – inherent trait, inherited – that’s how single Insane opens; some finger clicks and tongue flicks, but then this soulful, stirring voice. And the song itself is a masterpiece of writing and production, these soft, sensitive coos that lure us in, comfort us, mislead us. For the lyric, a celebration of romance – sure – is so hugely intense; a love song quite unlike any other. Hypnotic, mesmerising.
This ep closes with Can You See? A live performance at C’Mon Everybody. We have something approaching throat-singing in the intro, blended voices from McFerrin guide us into the journey of this song. She has political statements in her songs and hugely personal, provocative stories and it’s all so lovingly, gently coaxed and treated.
She’s a real talent and this EP is the real emergence of her own sound, so clearly linked to the familial tradition of course. But she’ a brave, bold new singer, doing something special. Taking her time. EP number three can’t come soon enough for me. But for now there’s this. And her excellent first EP from a couple of years back too.