Solid addition to Wasser’s discography and a worthy send-off to a legendary Afrobeat drummer
The final seconds of “Perfect Shade Of Blue,” the penultimate track off Joan Wasser’s (AKA Joan As Police Woman) latest release, The Solution Is Restless, include a poignant bit of studio banter—“I’m so glad we set this up as a weekly thing and that I’m gonna see you guys next week at the same time,” Wasser says to the collaborators featured on each of the album’s 10 tracks, legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen and Dave Okumu of The Invisible. “This is great news.”
It’s such a haunting inclusion because Allen (“perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived,” according to Brian Eno) died of an aneurysm shortly after these recording sessions took place. Hearing him chuckle as Wasser revels in his company, anticipating more sessions to come, serves as a reminder that—not to get too trite here—life is fragile and can be snatched away from us at any moment.
But it’s telling that this reminder comes with a palpable feeling of jubilation from everyone in the studio. The Solution Is Restless doesn’t dwell on death, even though we’re reminded of it every time Allen strikes his drums—rather, the album remains strictly celebratory.
The Solution Is Restless is a dense, gelatinous blend of funk, jazz, soul and dub. The artists’ intentions are immediately made clear with the opening track, “The Barbarian,” which clocks in at nearly 12 minutes. Meshell Ndegeocello lays down a juicy, hypnotic bassline while Moog synths, courtesy of Aviram Barath, create a vast sense of space that’s made even deeper by Wasser’s smokey voice, making for one of the most dub-inflected tracks on the entire project.
Wasser, Allen and Okumu mesh remarkably well across every track. Allen’s nimble drumming interlocks with Okumu’s buttery bassline on “Take Me To Your Leader” to set a muscular foundation for Wasser’s rousing, chromatic synth solo. The trio sounds like they’re having boundless fun on this track especially, which culminates in one of the stickiest choruses on the entire project, sounding straight off a ‘70s funk record with its multilayered vocals (creating a group vocal effect) and rich strings.
But the strongest track by far is lead single “Geometry Of You,” a syrupy, gyrating slice of sexed-up funk, with reverb drips, horns, guitar stabs and licks cresting in and out of the cavernous space Wasser and co. conjure up (much like dub once again). The album title comes from a lyric found on this track—“‘Cause I’m formulating the lines/ Making assumptions/ Creating hypotheses/ When the solution is restless.” In Wasser’s own words, she ruminates on “the numerical perfection of numbers and geometry applied to a person’s body, heart and mind.” It’s funny that these lyrics are so left-brained, so Apollonian because the music itself is pure Dionysian carnality, actualized in Okumu’s wobbly bassline and Wasser’s lascivious coo.
The Solution Is Restless is an intoxicating, sensual and at times life-affirming collaboration and the fact that it was completed before Allen’s sudden death is a miracle. With its deft genre-bending, songcraft and frequent feats of improvisation, this record isn’t just another solid addition to Wasser’s discography—it’s also a worthy send-off for the legendary drummer. The only downside of a project like this is the knowledge that there isn’t more to come.