Jah Wobble

Full Moon Over The Shopping Mall

Wire – March 2000

The latest musical odyssey of Jah Wobble arrives with a characteristic lack of explanation: just a track listing, a line up and some sleevenotes from the man credited with Cretan pipes, flutes, shakuhachi and goathorns, Wire contributor Clive Bell. Plus a CD with some of the most compelling music you could wish to hear.

“The Master Wobble sets an example of perfect creative focus and freedom,” writes Bell,”and laughs at his followers: his laugh says, see, it’s easy you tossers, and we bite our lips and redouble our concentration.”

He is joking, of course. “Jah Wobble would like it to be known that in reality he is not a master. In fact, he hardly knows anything at all,” runs the self deprecating explanatory line on the back cover, just in case you should have missed Bell’s heavy doses of humour. And yet.. while Wobble and the musicians he has gathered together for this excursion are obviously capable of laughter, it is evidently as a release from the intensity of their approach to the music contained here.

There’s something all too perfect about the Wobble myth. The streetwise Stepney Dodger who borrowed a bass from Sid Vicious and did what Vicious could never quite manage (he actually learned to play it); the shambolic amateur giving way to the limitless vistas of the purely instinctive.

With Keith Levene and John Lydon in PiL, Wobble rerouted dub into the desolate landscape of Anglo ambience. He was the Eno of Public Image, seemingly emblematic rather than essential, despite the solidity of his rolling basslines. Yet the post-Wobble PiL descended into self-parody at roughly the same rate as the post-Eno Roxy, while Wobble’s stature, like Eno’s, seems only to have increased with the passing of time.

Throughout his career Wobble has had the luxury of picking his collaborators. Full Moon Over The Shopping Mall features the same core musicians as last year’s Deep Space. The combination of Wobble and ex-Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit always seemed like the avant rock fantasy rhythm section and once again they lock together into a single unit, bound by a hypnotic sense of timing. The title track sets their nagging rhythms centre stage, as newcomer Baluji Shrivastav’s sitar counterpoints the unearthly howling of Bell’s Cretan pipes and Jean-Pierre Rasle’s honking crumhorn. There’s a sense of magic and exoticism but also of brooding violence in the brutal simplicity of Wobble’s bass, which surfaces and resurfaces through the dueling harmonies of East and West.

Considering the instrumentation at work, it is remarkable how urban this opener sounds. Perhaps it’s the autosuggestion of the title, but “Full Moon Over The Shopping Mall” locates its mysticism in a particularly modern context. This, however, is only a departure point as the throb of traffic and the scream of sirens are left behind in “Ethos”, with Wobble’s bass, diving deeper in the mix, below the entrancing innovations of Shrivastav’s multi-tracked, wordless vocals, and Liebezeit’s contribution reduced to providing a perfectly placed counterpoint to the same player’s tablas.

“Waxing Moon” continues the increasing Eastward drift, with Wobble and Liebezeit providing a driving pulse that can be felt but scarcely heard. “Waning Moon”, gives the pipes greater prominence, beginning with a solo of naked, primitive beauty. “Acting The Goat”, beginning with gorgeous stereo goathorns from Bell, brings the rhythm section roaring back into prominence, building a glorious cacophony around their insistent sense of accelerated motion.

Looking again at Bell’s sleevenotes (“[The] target is not the audience, but the communal state of enlightenment that listeners and musicians may reach together at any moment maybe between the drawing of two breaths”), suddenly they don’t seem so much of a joke.

Don Watson

From: “Patrick MacArdle”

I’m happy to thoroughly recommend the latestĀ  dispatch fromĀ  Jah Wobble’s ongoing musical journey, boldly going where no musician has gone before. In short, another stunningly original set of tunes.

I’ll do my best to describe it, but keep in mind that these folks stick as many ideas into a single song than most bands could fit into a box set retrospective. I could spend all day trying to describe the various twists and turns each song takes. I’ve listened to it about 3 times a day for the last 4 days and I still hear something new in each tune each time.

The album has the loose, friendly, improvised, feel of a live jam session. In mood it reminds me of nothing more than a classic Alice Coltrane record. The constant is the foundation that Wobble’s bass and Liebezeit’s drums provide. For most of the record they’re like one instrument. Various other musicians and instruments go at it on top of them.

The first four tunes have an Indian feel to them, thanks to the sitar, tabla, and wordless vocals of B Shrivastav. And as if that wasn’t enough, you also have C Bell’s various high end pipes skitting around and JP Rasle’s low end pipes getting a word in too.

JP Rasle and B Shrivastav go home before the fifth track, Acting the Goat, starts. They’re replaced by Wobble on keyboards. C Bell takes advantage of the extra space, honking and piping all over the place. Headphones recommended for the stereo goathorns solo!

The sixth and last track is a whole new direction, as Wobble, Liebezeit, and J Cadbury channel Fela Kuti with their own version of an Afro-beat rhythm. C Bell’s gone home, so H Becket’s trumpet takes center stage with Wobble and C Murphy making with the keyboards when you least expect it.

Another masterpiece from start to finish.

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