Fri March 22, 2024

Azolia 'Not About Heroes' (BE/USA/D/CH)

Sophie Tassignon: vocals
Susanne Folk: alto saxophone, clarinet
Lothar Ohlmeier: bass clarinet, soprano saxophone
Andreas Waelti: bass

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Once the scope of its horrors began to take their toll, the First World War became known as 'the war to end all wars.' More than a century later, that idealistic sobriquet has proved with distressing frequency to have been wishful thinking. On 'Not About Heroes', the haunting yet hopeful new album from the Berlin-based quartet AZOLIA, the words of WWI-era British poet Wilfred Owen are woven into rich tapestries of stark anti-war sentiment and urgent optimism.
Owen wrote his poetry from first-hand experience. He was wounded in combat in 1917 and wrote many of his poems while recuperating, diagnosed with 'shell shock' – what would today be termed PTSD. He returned to his regiment in the summer of 1918 and was killed in France a few months later. The majority of his poems were published posthumously, lending his already haunted lines the ghostly air of wisdom shared from beyond the grave.

'Not About Heroes' takes its title from the self-penned introduction to Owen's 1920 collection Poems, which sets out a kind of mission statement for his work. "This book is not about heroes," he writes. "English Poetry is not yet fit to speak of them… Yet these elegies are not to this generation. This is in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All the poet can do today is to warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful."
Despite the tragedy of Owen’s experiences and the darkness of much of his work, it is hope for peace rather than dread of war that emerges from AZOLIA'S transcendently gorgeous and mesmerizing music. By placing these sentiments in such a profoundly moving and inventive context, they celebrate the transformative power of the human imagination such that a world of possibilities open to the listener.