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Pagan Priestess Rocks Out,
This review is from: Deep Field (Digipack) (Audio CD)
I have followed Joan Wasser's musical career for some
five or six years now with both interest and admiration.
It was quite clear early on that she was not born to
play second fiddle to Rufus Wainwright (although the
first time I encountered her she was doing exactly that!)
She has grown in confidence and maturity as both writer
and performer and increasingly inhabits a distinctive
and self-determinate space in the listening world.
Ms Wasser's left-field vision, however, is forever likely
to keep her well away from the middle of the road and the
sequins, pearls and other trappings mainstream recognition.
Her third album is a fine piece of work. In the ten songs
comprising this new collection we find her looking away
from the suave interiority of her wonderful 2008 recording
'To Survive' and backwards over her shoulder to her first,
eponymously titled, EP. The sound is grittier and earthier
than we have come to know and utilises a rock-oriented ensemble
to beef up the full-bodied arrangements. That Ms Wasser comes
on like a pagan priestess in the cover photography seems
entirely correct. Part Earth Mother, part Boedicea she rules
the musical forces with which she has surrounded herself!
The majority of the compositions are very good indeed.
Opening track 'Nervous' is one of her most exciting ideas to date.
Ms Wasser's idiosyncratic mewling nasal drawl has rarely sounded
better. It is a song which twists and turns in a delightfully
unpredictable way. The guitars chug and howl, the Hammond warbles
and splutters and the drums pump and splat along merrily behind her.
The concluding jam is an absolute riot!
'The Magic' is a funky little number full of soulful spirit.
The vocal dances in and out of the beats as free as a bird.
'Flash' is a more subdued and reflective number. A nocturnal
piece with shadows hovering at the edge of a firelit clearing.
The mournful repeated incantation is a ghost, half-heard and
perhaps half-seen, at the limits of Ms Wasser's field of vision.
A hauntingly beautiful invention.
'Human Condition', however, is a deeply flawed arrangement.
What might have been one of the album's finest moments is
sadly marred by the song's title being gutterally intoned over
and over and over again by a supporting male vocalist with
a voice like the man from the 1970's Seiko watch adverts.
'Forever and A Year' pulls things back on track convincingly.
A tender and deeply affecting composition sung with understated
breathy gravitas by Ms Wasser at the top of her game. Sublime.
'The Deep Field' is a very strong album. I hope it wins its creator
lots of new friends. Joan As Police Woman is a rare confection.
(The packaging, on the other hand, is totally dreadful. Yet another
of those too-tight, flimsy cardboard sleeves which rip apart as soon as
you try to remove the contents! The photography, however, is stunning!!)