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Ester Wiesnerova: Blue Journal

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Ester Wiesnerova: Blue Journal
Sometimes, catching the eye can be as important as catching the ear, at least in the beginning. Slovakian singer and composer Ester Wiesnerova definitely catches the eye with her debut release, Blue Journal. Inside a plain brown cardboard box is something of a tactile, as well as visual, treat:—a book covered in rich blue felt, full of photographs and song lyrics, held closed by a loop of black elastic and decorated solely by the title and artist's name written on a small rectangle of wood. It is a pleasure to hold and to read. But if the music it contains was not worth listening to, then it would be rather a pointless exercise. Thankfully, the music is a delight, the sound of a refreshing, inventive, new ensemble which is still finding its feet but showing plenty of talent as it does so.

Wiesnerova trained in Berklee and the New England Conservatory, and was living in New York until covid hit, at which point she returned home. She lists Maria Schneider, Luciana Souza and Joni Mitchell as her influences, but her light, fluid, style also bears a passing resemblance to Astrud Gilberto. On Blue Journal, recorded in Austria, she is joined by saxophonist and clarinetist Sam Knight from the UK, harpist Charles Overton from the USA, percussionist Kan Yanabe from Japan, and double & electric bassist Michal Šelep who, like the singer, is from Slovakia. The players make a fine ensemble in support of the singer and there are many individual moments worthy of note. "Nightingales and Maple Trees," the album's most ambitious track, gives each musician the best chance to showcase their playing, with the addition of birdsong and a guest appearance by flautist Maria Rehakova.

The songs emerged from the thoughts which Wiesnerova began to write down, in a blue journal, when she returned home. Her lyrics cover themes including the impact of US border controls ("Burrito," whose slinky, danceable, groove belies the tale of a Tijuana burrito seller separated from "the lady from San Diego"), the negative impact of social media ("Thirsty") and the anguish resulting from the need to maintain a certain public image ("Feet are Screaming"). There is love, too—lost, unrequited or still in the future—and enough lyrical opacity to offer plenty of chances for interpretation. Wiesnerova tackles some serious issues, but there is humor and some surprising imagery in her words, ensuring that her songs are never mere polemics. "Feet are Screaming" tells of a woman in six-inch heels and a sparkly dress, desperate to leave an event at which, she must remember, "Don't burp, bend over or shout. Don't talk or laugh out too loud. Don't stain your dress. Don't spit ... above all else, don't be honest."

The 128-page book contains plenty of blank space, to enable listeners to write, or perhaps draw, whatever they may wish, just as Wiesnerova did when she began to plan this album. It is another bonus, but the songs and the performances rightfully hold center-stage.

Track Listing

Sinking Deep; Circles; Burrito; Thirsty; Feet are Screaming; Nightingales and Maple Trees; Who Are You Now; Citilivi; Dripping; I'm Not Spinning if it Rains; Epilogue.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Maria Rehakova: flute.

Album information

Title: Blue Journal | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Self Produced


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