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Zarco – N​ã​o Lembra Ao Diabo Review

When a prog rock funk band takes on world folk music

What does Zarco sound like?

When a prog rock funk band takes on folk music from around the world.

The review of Zarco – N​ã​o Lembra Ao Diabo

Portuguese quintet Zarco has previously released two albums where they mix up funk and prog rock into something that sounds like it was recorded in an era gone by. For their new album, ‘N​ã​o Lembra Ao Diabo’ (roughly translated to ‘Don’t Remember the Devil’) Zarco totally changed their sound. Out go all the funk and plugged elements of their music and in comes an entirely acoustic arrangement.

photo of Zarco

I’ve no idea if this new sound will stay with Zarco beyond this album but it makes for a potent mix. The album opens with the beautiful ballad ‘Escuta, Meu Menino’. It is a beautifully paced and sensitive opener that introduces you to the warm vocals and rich guitar arrangements of the band. By keeping it simple and letting the guitar ring out rustically, the song has a lonely warrior feel to it. ‘Morrer de pé’ is more like a Portuguese barn dance. The song starts out like a wistful pub tale with a flamboyant guitar dressing the piano base. Then suddenly Latin folk percussion steams in to up the pace and Zarco’s members join in unison for various chants for the chorus. I feel like if The Witcher was set in Lisbon, this would be the soundtrack and I love it.

In keeping with the Bard of Lisbon style, ‘Devagar, de Manshinho’ is an upbeat treat. Light bard folk mixes with flamenco-tinged psychedelia – but acoustically. Throw in a few beer glass-raising “Ó pá!” for background vocals and you have a chirpy folk number to ramble to. Zarco primarily use a classic and 12-string guitar working in unison but flutes and pumps add a lot of texture across the release. Nowhere does it all mesh so fluidly than on ‘Sr. Doutor’. The interplay of flutes, pump organs, percussive layers, piano, voice and guitars are like complex bursts of energy. Add in a saxophone solo (naturally) and you have something that sounds quite unique. I only have a couple of audio references I can place the album near from my own music collection. Firstly, the great Peter Ulrich (percussionist from Dead Can Dance) and secondly, the arrangement albums for the Suikoden game series. It is this odd mix of folk, jazz, prog and Latin charm that you rarely find in music.

The prog side of things comes to the fore for the final two tracks. Both are the only tracks with a full drum set in action too. ‘Atira e Vira ao Mar’ leans into an acoustic prog rock sound more than any other track. It’s happy to gently idle away on the guitars like they are documenting a travelogue. The extended instrumental bridge has a magical quality before the song closes like a sailor song. That leaves ‘Ama Onde a Estrada Come​ç​a’ to close the album. This track moves towards the Indian and Persian realms with various Eastern percussion playfully adding curiosity to the musical mix. The song balances a searching verse structure alongside more grounded and homely choruses.

Zarco explains in the liner notes that the album is about moving through withdrawing from the world, entrance rites, travelling beyond limits and then being reborn. You can hear this journey take place across the album and emotionally connect with it on that level quite easily. The mesh of folk, jazz, prog and world music makes ‘N​ã​o Lembra Ao Diabo’ stand out from the crowd and the arrangements are superbly put together. Whilst I have nothing against Zarco’s previous work, I really connected with this album in a way I haven’t with their previous work. As it sounds so unique, I’d love to hear Zarco continuing down this acoustic prog folk path in the future. There is a lot to explore and this album is a fantastic gateway into that world.

Recommended track: Sr. Doutor

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Zarco - N​ã​o Lembra Ao Diabo



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