[sic] Magazine

Joan As Police Woman – The Deep Field

Joan Wasser has a fascinating, well-connected background. Protégée of Antony Hegarty and Rufus Wainwright , she has also been Jeff Buckley ‘s significant other, as well as having collaborated with Lou Reed . To date, this has all stood her in very good stead.

Her sparse debut, Real Life, introduced her fractured confidence with aplomb. Its follow up, To Survive, was an understandably more mute offering that focused on her mother’s death for inspiration. The Deep Field is noticeably less introspective. Wasser’s choice of artwork confirms it, her fleshed out compositions too.

As a consequence, fewer of her trademark, melancholic piano ballads pepper the running order – “Forever And A Year” is a noteworthy, organ-filled exception from where the album’s title comes. Yet, as Wasser’s fragility was also often her strength, what then to make of The Deep Field?

Though the Joan As Police Woman sound of now appears to look backwards for reference, back to a time when “easy listening” wasn’t a dirty classification, this third original outing is nevertheless an evolution for Wasser, a regaining of confidence as the groove-laden, crowd-splitting “Human Condition” potentially shows. What’s certain is that the track is as unabashedly erotic as Wasser has ever been, soulfully playing off against slap bass, as well as her regular contributor Joseph Arthur and his best Mark Lanegan -style vocal impression.

Apparently then now back in love, we can forgive Wasser the occasional mistread. For, even if it doesn’t all work for all listeners (“Nervous” seems little more than a synth-y, echoing amble), at least she’s trying to break out from within her own brackets. For example, “Chemmie” and its 70s electric-funk/soul has grand, nearly-fulfilled allusions of Diana Ross collaborating with Stevie Wonder – something unexpected to say the least from Wasser.

Elsewhere, the funk on “The Magic” is likeably memorable, and “Flash” is an accomplised, eight-minute exercise in odd harmonies that allow the experimental vocoding in “Run For Love” to pass unnoticed in comparison.

Overall, The Deep Field is unquestionably smooth. Yet, it could be said that it’s the skilful combination of its disparate elements that allow it to be so. Though benefit of the doubt permits the album to stay happily afloat, Wasser may have to pack a few more emotional punches to remain so in future.

~The Deep Field is out now on PIAS .~