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Belgian experimental drummer-percussionist-sound artist Karen Willems describes herself as one who refuses to conform always confronts and never stops transforming. Her Terre Sol project reflects a sonic quest to turn inwards and find her motives, and stresses that everything is connected, not just in the grand scheme of things, but also in the colorful universe of Karen Willems. Juju continues Wilems’ work on the double album Grichte (W.E.R.F., 2022) and features Four core musicians – Wilems – who sings, plays drums, percussion, objects, synths and field recordings, accompanied by the sax trio of Marc De Maeseneer, Vincent Brijs and John Snauwaert (all played on Grichte, and the beautiful cover artwork by Dominiek Claeys celebrities this powerful quartet), plus four guest musicians.

Juju digs deeper with the adventurous and punchy, expressionist post-rock, prog-rock and punkish riffs and the semi-Dadaist free-improv and avant-garde of Grichte. It addresses broader socio-political issues of our hectic, self-centered times like the refugee crisis or climate change and the much-needed ecology awareness. But now Wilems’ work is more confident, diverse and rich, and her carefully crafted compositions and arrangements as well as her own singing and playing with electronics and processed sounds reach more eccentric and playful edges, but are more accessible than ever before.

Juju is loosely inspired by Dr. John’s seminal, debut album Gris Gris (Atco, 1967), and Wilems promises that you can feel the mystery of the hypnotic and passionate Voodoo rituals lurking underneath it, but she also insists that this album offers an invitation to a break, a moment to (re)connect. She describes some of the pieces as «an aural hand grenade looking for an alternative» and she is absolutely right. Juju suggests the beautiful and imaginative sonic vision of Wilems and radiates an immediate, infectious emotional power and stimulating energy that can motivate some positive change. Wilems is a musician at the peak of her powers, and an important creative and inspiring force to reckon with.

Eyal Hareuvveni

Karen Wilems (drums, percussion, vocals, synths, field recordings), Marc De Maeseneer (baritone saxophone), John Snauwaert (tenor saxophone), Vincent Brijs (baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone), Nabou Claerhout (trombone), Kapinga Gysel (backing vocals), Filip Wauters (cigar box, slide-electric guitar), Esther Lybeert (backing vocals)