Album Review: Juan Wauters – La Onda de Juan Pablo

Born out of unique circumstances, Juan Wauters returns with his latest record on Captured Tracks and it’s a doozy.

When trying to understand anything, the title is often the best place to start. On first glance Juan Wauters’ third solo album La Onda de Juan Pablo, which translates as ‘The World of Juan Pablo’, seems to hint at an LP full of introspective songs that welcome the listener into the private, personal space. Alternatively, the title could invite any listener to hear and understand how Juan Wauters perceives and views the world. In some ways, both of these takes on the title of Wauters’ latest record are right because of the unique way in which La Onda de Juan Pablo came about, and the extraordinarily unique feel this LP has as a result.

Unlike his previous two albums which were written and record in two fixed locations – New York and Illinois respectively – the songs that make up La Onda de Juan Pablo were written and recorded on Juan Wauters’ travels across Latin America with the help of local musicians and taking inspiration from their places of origin. The resulting record feels like it has the joy of travel, new experiences and creativity at its core with disparate musical influences and ideas being distilled through Wauters’ keen ear for melody and composition. The ragged ‘Disfruta La Fruta’ feels busy, bustling and crowded with its manically strummed acoustic guitar and fluttering flutes that interject on their own accord rather than with any prescribed sense of rhythm.

‘Blues Chilango’ feels as if you’ve caught the last bus out of town as the sun sets, echoing whistles taking you from day to night and shimmering synths feeling like you’re looking up the night sky through trees – quiet rural awe replacing urban business cultivated on ‘Disfruta la Fruta’. Elsewhere the infectious melody of ‘Guapa’ stems from Puerto Rico and ‘A Volar’ from musicians Wauters met in Mexico City. It’s remarkable how Wauters’ has created an album that feels as cohesive as it does considering it’s born out of visiting a wide range of places. What really flows through is awe filled, wide-eyed excitement at the wonders of the world and the beauty of what can be found by looking round every corner, turning over every stone.  

At the moment, the world can feel a stressful, oppressive and often hellish- records that lift you out of that malaise are vital antidotes. La Onda de Juan Pablo is one of those records. Refreshing, rejuvenative and ultimately remarkable, Wauters’ third record is a glorious reminder that although the world can be tough at times there is still magic in it.