JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN AND BENJAMIN LAZUR DAVIS-LET IT BE YOU.
JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN AND BENJAMIN LAZUR DAVIS-LET IT BE YOU.
Signing a distribution deal to Reveal Records in December 2005 was the turning point for Joan As Police Woman. Their new label rereleased their eponymous debut E.P. Meanwhile, Joan As Police Woman headed into the studio and recorded their debut album, Real Life. It was released to critical acclaim in June the 12th 2006 and reached 189 in the UK charts. This was just the start of Joan Wrasse’s latest musical adventure.
Eleven years later, and Joan As Police Woman are about to release their fifth album for Reveal Records. This isn’t just a Joan As Police Woman album. Instead, Let It Be You, which will be released on 21st of October 2016, is a collaboration between Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies. It’s an album that was inspired by journeys to Africa to study traditional music.
In Joan Wrasse’s case, she headed to Ethiopia to study the country’s indigenous music with Damon Albarn’s Africa Express. Meanwhile, Benjamin Lazur Davies headed to West Africa, where he studied traditional music. It was only when they returned, that the pair met and realised they both shared an interest in African music. Especially, Central African Republic Pygmy musical patterns. Soon, the pair decided to write and record an album together. This album became the genre-melting Let It Be You, which is Joan As Police Woman’s first album in just over two years. It’s also the latest chapter in a musical journey that began for Joan Wrasse in 1991.
Back in 1991, Joan Wrasse was twenty-one and about to join a new band, The Dambuilders. This was no surprise to everyone who knew Joan Wrasse, who had been immersed in music since the age of six.
That was when she began taking piano lessons in Norwalk, Connecticut. Two years later, and Joan Wrasse began taking violin lessons. By then, it was obvious that the eight year old was a prodigious talent. Over the next few years, Joan played violin in both school and community orchestras. However, eventually, she musically outgrew Norwalk.
Joan Wrasse left Norwalk, and headed to college. By the time she was eighteen, this prodigiously talented musician was admitted early to the College Of Fine Arts, at Boston University. This was not an everyday occurrence. However, Joan Wrasse was not just any musician. She had an overabundance of talent, which maybe explained her eventual restlessness.
Despite studying classical music under some of the finest tutors, including Yuri Mazurkevich, Joan Wrasse began to tire of classical music. Joan came to realise that she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life playing classical music. So Joan joined a punk band, and tried: “to bridge the gap between the guitar and the bass and play the violin really loud.” Little did Joan realise that this was the start of her musical career.
Having started life playing with punk bands, Joan Wrasse joined The Dambuilders in 1989. They were founded in 1989 in Honolulu, in Hawaii, but moved to Boston in the early nineties.
By then, The Dambuilders had signed to the Berlin based Cuacha! label. It released The Dambuilders’ 1989 album A Young Person’s Guide in 1989, and their 1991 sophomore album Greek Lust. It was after the release of Greek Lust, that Joan Wrasse replaced Debbie Fox as vocalist and violinist.
Joan Wrasse made her recording debut on The Dambuilders’ third album Islington Porn Tapes. It was released in 1993, and brought The Dambuilders to the attention of Elektra Records.
They signed The Dambuilders in 1994, and they released their major label label debut later that year. Encendedor was released on Elektra Records’ subsidiary East West Records, and caught the attention of critics. So did the followup Ruby Red, which was released in 1995. That same year, The Dambuilders delivered a barnstorming and memorable performance at Lollapalooza. The Dambuilders seemed to be rising stars of the indie scene.
Despite this, Joan Wrasse began to work with other artists. This is something she still does today. However, in 1996 Joan announced that she was moving to Brooklyn, in New York. For The Dambuilders this was the beginning of the end. Just a year later, in 19997, and The Dambuilders had disbanded. By then, Joan Wrasse’s life had been hit by a tragedy.
By 29th May 1997, Joan Wrasse’s boyfriend Jeff Buckley was working on his new album in Memphis. After working all day, Jeff Buckley went out for a walk, and on the spur of the moment decided to dive in the Wolf River Harbour for a swim. He dived into the river fully clothed, and tragically, drowned. Jeff Buckley’s body was found on the 4th of June 1997. Just like his father Tim, Jeff had died tragically young. For Joan Wrasse, the sudden death of her partner was one of the most traumatic events of her life.
She was grieving, but didn’t know how to grieve. Joan Wrasse it seems, was in shock and struggling to come to terms with the loss of her partner. Somehow, Joan continued to make music.
Those Bastard Souls.
This included with one of Joan Wrasse and Jeff Buckley’s friends, David Shouse. The Grifters’ founder and drummer had founded the indie rock band Those Bastard Souls. It had been founded by David Shouse in 1995, and Joan Wrasse had been the vocalist and violinist. In the aftermath of Jeff Buckley’s death, they began to work on a new album, Debt and Departure.
It was an album that tried to deal with, and respond to the death of Jeff Buckley. Joan Wrasse, his family, friends and bandmates were struggling to come to terms with Jeff Buckley’s death. Debt and Departure allowed the musicians to try and do so, through the means of music. This could’ve and should’ve been cathartic. Alas, it took several years before the album was released.
In 1996, Those Bastard Souls released their debut album, Twentieth Century Chemical in 1996. It wasn’t until 1999 that Debt and Departure was released. By then, Joan decided to form a new band, Black Beetle in late 1997.
Black Beetle was founded by Joan Wrasse, and featured the remaining members of Jeff Buckley’s band. They found themselves in a state of flux after the death of Jeff Buckley. Although they were grieving after the loss of a friend, it was only natural that eventually, they began to wonder what the future hold for them? Eventually, Joan Wrasse decided to take matters into her own hands, and founded Black Beetle. This was a whole new ball game for the twenty-seven year old.
Joan Wrasse had never been a bandleader. She was also the principal songwriter and lead singer. Despite all this being new for Joan, she wrote Black Beetle’s eponymous debut album. It was recorded, but alas, was never released. While this must have been a huge disappointment for Joan, she had coped admirably with all the challenges and met them head on. She had embraced her new role. However, in 1999, Joan was asked to join another band.
Antony and The Johnsons.
During 1999, Joan Wrasse was asked to fill in for Antony and The Johnsons’ violinist during a rehearsal. Joan headed along to the rehearsal, thinking that this was a one off. That was meant to be the case. However, by the end of the rehearsal, Joan had joined the band on a full-time basis.
By the time Joan Wrasse joined Antony and The Johnsons, they had recorded their eponymous debut album. It was released in 2000. Joan featured on Antony and The Johnsons’ sophomore album I Am A Bird Now. When it was released in 2005, it was to critical acclaim and commercial success. Later, I Am A Bird Now won the prestigious Mercury Prize in the UK. However, by then, Joan Wrasse had embarked upon a new adventure.
Joan As Police Woman.
This began in June 2002, after the demise of Black Beetle. It was then that Joan Wrasse decided to embark upon a solo career. She would still work with other artists, but her solo career took prominence.
That was the case over next couple of years. Although Joan Wrasse worked as a solo artist, there was an inevitability that somewhere down the line, Joan would form a new band. That proved to be the case, and Joan As Police Woman was born.
The newly formed Joan As Police Woman released its eponymous debut E.P. in 2004. It was self-released by the band. However, Joan As Police Woman caught a break when they signed a distribution deal to Reveal Records in December 2005 was the turning point for Joan As Police Woman.
Reveal Records rereleased their eponymous debut E.P. on February 27th 2006. For many British music fans, this was the first they heard of Joan As Police Woman. It certainly wouldn’t be the last.
Meanwhile, Joan As Police Woman headed into the studio and recorded their debut album, Real Life. It was released to critical acclaim in June the 12th 2006 and reached 189 in the UK chart. This was just the start of Joan Wrasse’s latest musical adventure.
Nearly two years to the day, Joan As Police Woman released their sophomore album To Survive on the 9th June 2008. Just like Real Life, critical acclaim accompanied the the release of To Survive.It reached fifty-five in the UK, and To Survive found its way onto many of the best of 2008 lists. After just two albums, it seemed as if Joan As Police Woman had arrived.
As if to celebrate, Joan As Police Woman released an album of cover versions via their own website and at their concerts. Cover found Joan As Police Woman covering everyone from Jimi Hendrix, Iggy Pop, Sonic Youth, David Bowie and Nina Simone on what was a captivating album. It showcased Joan As Police Woman versatility and talent. So would Joan As Police Woman’s fourth studio album, The Deep Field.
On January 24th 2011, Joan As Police Woman released The Deep Field on Reveal Records. Just like Cover, The Deep Field featured a variety of different songs. Ballads and uptempo tracks sat side-by-side on what was a slick, polished album that won over critics and record buyers. The Deep Field reached number forty on the UK Charts. For Joan As Police Woman, The Deep Field was their most successful album.
Despite the commercial success of The Deep Field, it was another three years before Joan As Police Woman returned with a new album. The Classic was released on March 10th 2014 to praise and plaudits. Some critics hailed The Classic, Joan As Police Woman’s finest hour. Meanwhile, The Classic began to climb the UK charts, eventually reaching forty-four. The success story that was Joan As Police Woman continued. Their next album, Let It Be You, would be very different from everything that’s gone before.
Let It Be You.
Unlike previous albums, Let It Be You is a collaboration between Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies. Let It Be You was inspired by Joan Wrasse and Benjamin Lazur Davies’ respective journeys to Africa to study traditional music.
In Joan Wrasse’s case, she headed to Ethiopia to study the country’s indigenous music with Damon Albarn’s Africa Express. Meanwhile, Benjamin Lazur Davies who currently performs with Okkervil River, Cuddle Magic and Bridget Kearney, headed to West Africa, where he studied traditional music. It was only when they returned, that the pair met, and realised they both shared an interest in African music. Especially, Central African Republic Pygmy musical patterns. Soon, the pair decided to write and record an album together. This album became Let It Be You.
For Let It Be You, Joan As Police Woman and wrote ten tracks. They were recorded at various studios, including Vibromonk, ColorStudy, Guilford Sound, Trout Recording and Mochi Studios. At these studios, Joan Wrasse and Benjamin Lazur Davies were joined by drummer Ian Chang and bassist and guitarist Ryan Dugre. The rest of the album was recorded by Joan Wrasse and Benjamin Lazur Davies. He added vocals, bass and keyboards. Joan Wrasse took charge of vocals, strings, guitar and keyboards. Once the ten tracks were recorded, Luke Moellman mixed Let It Be You and then Chris Gehringer mastered the album. Only then was Let It Be You ready for release on 21st October 2016. It’s a captivating genre-melting album.
Broke Me In Two opens Let It Be You. A bit crushed guitar combines with a tack piano before the arrangement is transformed. Suddenly, the arrangement bursts into life, becoming big and bold, as the track seems to head into anthem territory. Drums and keyboards are added and accompany Joan’s powerful, soaring diva-esque vocal. Briefly, it’s akin to rap, before she vamps and revisits her soulful side. Later, the arrangement revisits its understated sound, before returning to the earlier anthemic sound as it reaches a glorious crescendo.
There’s contrasts aplenty in the arrangement to Overloaded. The arrangement is dark, and sometimes futuristic as an ethereal vocal soars above the arrangement. They give way to compressed drums, piano and bass as Benjamin takes charge of the lead vocal. Behind him, a myriad of beeps and squeaks are joined by ethereal, elegiac, soaring harmonies. They’re part of a multilayered mid tempo arrangement, where hooks certainly haven’t been rationed. It’s a memorable, genre-melting song where electronica, avant-garde indie rock and soul have been combined.
A crystalline guitar chirps and chimes on Magic Lamp, as Joan delivers a tender vocal. Soon, drums crack, as the mesmeric guitar plays. They’re joined by slow, dark, dramatic keyboards and a rumbling bass. Gradually, the arrangement begins to unfold and instruments are added at just the right time. This includes drums that crack and quiver and an electric piano. However, it’s the strings and what’s one of Joan’s best vocals that play leading roles, as the song reveals its secrets, subtleties and surprises. The result is a truly irresistible song, that’s a marriage of electronica and indie pop.
Handclaps are to the fore on Let It Be You as drums pound. They’re joined by Joan’s drawling and later, heartfelt vocal. By then, exotic percussion, keyboards and effects laden guitar are added. So is a bass synth that rumbles menacingly. Keyboards feature prominently, and sometimes, there’s an almost futuristic and experimental sound. This isn’t overdone though, as handclaps encourage Joan’s urgent and heartfelt vocal. It’s part of what’s a melodic, memorable and catchy song.
The drums on Hurts So Bad seem to have been processed as lumbering keyboards and the bass provide a backdrop for Benjamin’s needy vocal. Elegiac harmonies and a guitar accompany him as he lays his soul. From 1.11 to 1.30, Joan and Benjamin seem to pay homage to Prince. Their vocals intertwine with keyboards and the rhythm section as sweet soul and funk meets indie pop. This delicious musical potpourri gives way to a hopeful, needy vocal. Meanwhile, drums, keyboards and bass play a supporting role. Later, the delicious musical potpourri makes a welcome return, as Benjamin delivers a soul-baring paean. When his vocal drops out, string provide welcome replacement, before the vocal returns and the carefully crafted Hurts So Bad reaches its emotive crescendo.
There’s a lo-fi sound to the keyboards that open Satellite. They set the scene for Joan’s impassioned, but tender vocal. Soon, drums crack, while the lo-fi keyboards buzz. Contrasts abound, as Joan’s elegiac vocal is joined by an electric piano and harmonies. Gradually, the song is sculpted, and takes shape, as Joan and Benjamin deploy an array of disparate instruments and effects effectively.
Urgent drums crack on Easy Money, as stabs of keyboard punctuate the arrangement. Other keyboards drone, as filters are used on Benjamin’s vocal. Harmonies and handclaps are added, and add to the sense of urgency. Futuristic, sci-fi and dark keyboards are deployed. So are soaring harmonies, as Benjamin’s delivers a needy, hopeful vocal. When it drops out, keyboards pickup the baton, before the song reaches its dramatic and memorable ending.
A bit crusher is put to good use on Violent Dove. It transforms the keyboard sound, as Joan delivers a slow, thoughtful vocal. At .31 the arrangement blossoms. Keyboards, drums and the bass combine, while the bit crusher continues to make its presence felt. Again, contrasts abound, with a variety of disparate instruments and effects playing their part in what’s a spacious, but dreamy arrangement. So does Joan’s vocal. Sometimes, it’s multi tracked. That’s the case later, where synths and stringsare added, and once again, ensuring this dreamy, ethereal song ends on a high.
Hypnotic describes the introduction to Motorway. A myriad of whirs, scrapes and ringing sounds accompany the drums. Soon, so does Benjamin’s vocal. It fills in the gaps in the arrangement. It’s joined by harmonies and percussion, as there’s another nod to Prince. Later, a bass synth plays, and meanders across the arrangement while drums click and crack. They’re part of this alternative symphony. So are the vocal and harmonies, which play leading roles and are key to the sound and success of Motorway.
Station closes Let It Be You, and is the longest track on the album. It lasts 6.11, and allows for some experimentation. Right up until 1.42, just a hypnotic guitar chimes and accompanies Joan’s breathy vocal. A chord change just after 1.43 signals a change. Soon, a bass, electric piano and strings have been added. They play subtly, taking care not to overpower Joan’s impassioned, tender vocal. At 3.28 another chord change signals a change in sound and style. Over the next minute, the arrangement is transformed. A wash of sound feedbacks, as drums pound and a guitar plays. Joan’s vocal becomes ethereal, as drones emerge from the arrangement. The best, and most experimental and innovative soundscape has been kept to last. It’s Let It Be You’s Magnus Opus, and shows another side to Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies.
Let It Be You is the much-anticipated, and genre-melting collaboration between Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies. The wait however, is almost over, with Let It Be You due for release by Reveal Records on 21st October 2016. It’s been worth the wait, and is an album that will appeal to a wide range of record buyers.
No wonder. There’s elements of a wide range of musical genres on Let It Be You. Elements of electronica, indie pop and indie rock are combined with ambient, avant-garde and experimental music. Then there’s the influence of African music. That’s no surprise.
Both Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies journeyed to Africa to study traditional music. Joan Wrasse headed to Ethiopia to study the country’s indigenous music with Damon Albarn’s Africa Express. Meanwhile, Benjamin Lazur Davies headed to West Africa, where he studied traditional music. Incredibly, neither Joan nor Benjamin knew of the other’s plans. That’s despite both living in the borough of Brooklyn, in New York.
It was only when they returned, and happened to meet that they realised they both shared an interest in African music. This lead to the pair deciding to write and record an album together. This album became the genre-melting Let It Be You. There’s an African influence on the album. Especially on staccato bit-crushed guitar line that plays throughout Broke Me In Two. That sound reappears elsewhere on the album. However, care is taken not to overuse it. It’s a similar case with the various effects that are deployed.
Effects are used throughout Let It Be You, and help sculpt and carefully craft the ten tracks. They may last just thirty-seven minutes, but it’s thirty-seven memorable and melodic minutes. The music on Let It Be You is variously beautiful, dreamy, elegiac and ethereal, but also dark and dramatic. Other times, the music is hypnotic and mesmeric, before becoming catchy and truly irresistible. It’s a case of don’t spare the hooks, as Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies weave their musical magic and continually captivate on what’s hopefully the first of many collaborations, Let It Be You.
JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN AND BENJAMIN LAZUR DAVIS-LET IT BE YOU.
- Posted in: Avant Garde ♦ Electronic ♦ Experimental ♦ Indie Pop ♦ Indie Rock ♦ Pop ♦ Rock
- Tagged: Antony and The Johnsons, Benjamin Lazur Davies, Black Beetle, Cover, Joan As Police Woman, Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies, Joan Wrasse, Let It Be You, Real Life, Reveal Records, The Dambuilders, The Deep Field, Those Bastard Souls, To Survive