Joan As Police Woman, Tony Allen, Dave Okumu - The Solution Is Restless (PIAS Recordings, 2021)
The Solution Is Restless is a joint album written and recorded by Joan As Police Woman, Dave Okumu of The Invisible and legendary drummer Tony Allen.
Joan Wesser, known as Joan As Police Woman, likes to experiment. In the past, she has recorded five studio albums, two albums with cover versions and collaborated with several artists, including Gorillaz and the Africa Express project.
Spontaneity is the key
March 2019. In a church in Leytonstone, a remote part of London. It’s busy. Studios and instruments are set up in every room of the church and in the sheds belonging to the building. Damon Albarn, Paul Simonon, Michael Kiwanuka, African Boy, Afro-Beat-Drummer Tony Allen and also Joan Wasser aka Joan as Police Woman run around trying out different constellations in jam sessions. This is exactly where the idea for the joint project “The solution is restless” was born.
The result is ten tracks that are a bit reminiscent of a soundtrack. Sometimes worn, sometimes playful, with sound snippets and scraps of conversation from the studio. The groovy constant: Tony Allen’s unmistakable drums.
The sound of silence and sirens
Lyrically it’s about love, self-acceptance and self-criticism. But Corona also plays a role on the album. As more and more people in Joan’s environment get the virus and some die from it, she lets her grief run free in the music. Among other things on the song “Get my bearings”, on which Damon Albarn also sings. And Tony Allen no longer lives to see the album.
Tony Allen’s last recording
“I was in the studio when I got the call that Tony Allen had died,” recalls Joan Wasser. “A few weeks earlier, my mentor, the producer Hal Wilner, had died of Covid. And this April was horrific! Especially if you lived in New York. Back then, Corona just carried away people! There was nobody on the streets except them Ambulance and a couple of nurses, and they were wrapped in plastic. And you saw these nurses pulling people out of their homes in stretchers. The sounds I remember are absolute silence and sirens. And there I have the song He starts with the line: What are you going to do with the rest of your day? You don’t know if the sun will come up again tomorrow.
Music that captures the spirit of the times
“Take Me to Your Leader” was inspired by New Zealand’s PM, Jacinda Ardern. The album is not about the pandemic, though: another track already available, “Geometry of You”, operates at the intersection of maths and sensuality, with Wasser cooing about “sticky wickets”. “Get My Bearings” tries to come to terms with Allen’s death in 2020; throughout, Wasser tackles how to continue to live and feel, through, she says, “a poetic understanding of quantum physics”.
NMR (photo: press Joan As A Police Woman)