Jah Wobble


Q Magazine – April 2003

Eleven tracks, all called Fly, a litany of xylophone trills, jazzy trumpets, wonderstruck lyrics and, beneath it all, thorax-melting bass: ladies and gentlemen, Jah Wobble is in the house. Though aided by a phalanx of horn players, programmers et al, this is the notoriously eclectic low-end maestro at his most groovily focused.

The Wire – March 2003

Given his wide range of musical, cultural and philosophical interests, this latest release from Jah Wobble is fairly streamlined in its concerns. He still retains a broad base of collaborators – Wire contributor Clive Bell on pipes and flutes, Harry Beckett on trumpet and Jean Pierre Rasle on bagpipes -but idiosyncratic diversions aside, this collection smoothly rides his seismic bass.

“Fly 1” features extended soloing from Beckett while the music’s unstoppable flow is driven by the bass and clipped, funky beats. The finale “Fly 11” reprises the track in remixed form, blurring the edges with a displaced fuzziness and showering the trumpet solos in dub effects. Wobble’s vocal “reflections on the one” feature on “Fly 2”, backed up with Cat Von-Trapp’s multi-tracked harmonies. Here Wobble’s matey mysticism is buried in a trance pulse, but on the lengthy “Fly 5” he puts his thoughts centre stage with a narration that veers from cliché (“all of us passing like ships in the night”) to the bizarre (“my people are waiting for me up on the stars, they’re expecting me”).

His processed voice makes him sound like a philosophising wideboy robot. If this is man’s failure to come to terms with the divine, it’s couched in a vernacular that’s more The Office’s David Brent than William Blake. But where the music travels unhindered it’s an unqualified success, absorbing elements as it follows its intended path, Once you’re on it, you can forgive Wobble’s wayward philosophising, which comes from the same place as his music: the heart.

Tom Ridge

The Daily Telgraph – 25th January 2003

WELCOME to the world of Wobble: Miles Davis-y muted trumpets fly about drum machines rattle away, and Wobble’s monster basslines prowl through the undergrowth in a searing journey through all his past personas – from Public Image post-punk brat to reggae and world music guru.

Take time out for a cockney Darth Vader meets David Icke talk over, where Wobble recounts his spiritual quest, down through the murky waters of East End canals to the fire below. Be thrilled by a blast of euphoric pop, which would probably be called “you are my Echo” if the tracks weren’t all named after their numerical position (in this case Fly 2); in any sensible universe this would be a hit single.

Guests such as veteran jazz trumpeter Harry Beckett and flute and pipe player Clive Bell excel, while Cat Von Trapp’s vocal line on the aforementioned Fly 2 is exquisite. The only cause for regret is the absence of live drums; but this is one of Wobble’s home-programmed, do-it-yourself-type projects, and what you lose in rhythmic subtlety you gain in immediacy.

Richard Wolfson

The Independent – 24th January 2003

Jah Wobble’s output can be irritatingly uneven at times – a function, perhaps, of the diversity of his musical interests – but with Fly, he delivers the most satisfying album of his career, one that deserves to extend his appeal deeper into mainstream club territory than before. “Fly 1” (and its remix “Fly 11”), for instance, is the epitome of Hoxton Square cool, its trancey jazz-dub groove lit here and there by flurries of Steve Reich-style xylophones and speculative trumpet forays from Harry Beckett. “Fly 3” – all the tracks are called “Fly” – is a similarly chilled concoction of trumpet and electric piano, funked up with the occasional wah-wah guitar hook, while “Fly 2” finds Wobble musing mystically on the unity of creation over an insistent techno pulse: “There are not many things, only one/ Look at the silver moon, same as the sun.” Various members of Wobble’s Deep Space band contribute to several tracks, notably Beckett and the piper/ flautist Clive Bell, with Jean-Pierre Rasle’s bagpipes bringing a Celtic-Arabic flavour to “Fly 10”. Left to his own devices, Wobble essays quizzical keyboard instrumentals such as the enigmatic Monk-ish piano progression “Fly 6”, rightly favouring character over technique. “Fly 5”, meanwhile, finds him gazing out over east London, contemplating life, death and eternity with a lightness that belies his subject matter: “The gods do love a laugh, as you know,” he notes helpfully at its conclusion.

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