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Album Review: Wendolins Monocle
Owls
Cover image of the album Wendolins Monocle by Owls
Wendolins Monocle
Owls
2022 / Intersections
58 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Wendolins Monocle is a fascinating second album from Austrian jazz trio, Owls. The trio consists of Simon Oberleitner (piano and electroacoustics), David Ambrosch (upright bass) and Konstantin Kräutler-Horváth (drums & sampling) - a fairly conventional jazz trio with a VERY unconventional sound! One of the things I love about European artists is that the lines that divide one genre of music from another are often blurred to non-existent while American music becomes more and more boxed into specific categories. European musicians seem to be much freer to explore and create their own distinctive sounds, going in different directions and blazing their own musical trails. Guest artists on this album include Herbert Walser-Breuss (cornet, trumpet and fx), Veronika Morscher (vocals, speech/lyrics), and Klaus Haberl (speech/lyrics).

Wendolins Monocle is all about perspective. It "tells the story of a young man who dares to cross the boundaries of observational spaces. The view through a monocle makes time stand still and gives him the ability to immerse himself in the world of the micro and the macro." (quoting Owls' website) It is a "story between fiction and reality, between music and literature, between science and philosophy, between acoustics and electronics." Each of the ten pieces is a musical tracing of the protagonist's gaze, and each piece is different from the others - from very peaceful to much more energetic. Most tracks are instrumental, but there are also sung and spoken words - some in English and some in German. It's a glorious musical journey and one that won't get put away on the shelf once I'm done writing this review!

Wendolins Monocle begins with "Prunus Serrulata - And Suddenly Silence," a piece that opens with a percussion intro (that startles my dog!). Then the piano and bass enter with a slow, easy groove before Veronika Morscher's beautiful vocals tell us to "breathe in, breathe out, and bow down" - an intriguing start that captured my attention right away. "Moss and Stone" is a free and easy instrumental that describes "when everything got huge." "The Fisherman and His Soul" is based on a fairy tale by Oscar Wilde and features a slightly muted piano, some interesting hand percussion, bass and Veronika whispering quotations from the story. There are also various effects that make the piece even more magical. Cornet joins in for the last couple of minutes, perhaps telling a different part of the story. I really like this one! "Walzer der tanzenden Pfauenfeder" translates to "Waltz of the Dancing Peacock Feather" and features muted trumpet along with piano, bass and percussion. Rhythmic, easy-going and colorful, and then it just sort of drifts off at the end. "The Root" is another favorite and describes "deep down the branched and intertwined paths." A little darker than the previous tracks and possibly more improvised, the bass has a chance to really shine on this one! The dramatic ending pulls out all the stops and then fades away. "Blessing" is very gentle and prayer-like - and very beautiful! It's interesting that "Introducing Wendolin" is the closing track! It includes German spoken-word in a short passage, but is mostly an upbeat musical exploration that is easy to identify as jazz. It's a great closing for a great album!

If you're in the mood for something different, be sure give Wendolins Monocle a try! It is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites such as Spotify and Bandcamp. More, please!
November 10, 2022
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