Wobble here returns with pretty much the original Invaders Of The Heart line-up but also collaborates with musicians from around the world, including vocalists Amila Sulejmanovic and Natacha Atlas. Umbra Sumus will delight fans with its ambient and moody soundscapes, heavy atmosphere and experimental feel. drawing on many influences and styles which blend easily into Wobble’s unique and inimitable grooves. Essentially, it’s a consistently accessible selection of tracks that easily stands up to his previous work.
It is well known fact that Jah Wobble wandered into the abyss marked ‘world music’ many years ago and has failed to return, simply sending back hippy-dippy postcards featuring many collaborators, at least one of whom has a didgeridoo and another of whom is a yodellng woman. And it always sounds bloody fantastic. Umbra Sumus is another coherent expression of this philosophy, propelling you from some hilltop in India right back to the heart of urban Britain with some of Wobble’s trademark skanking basslines. Capable of taking you to more holiday destinations than an Interrail pass. Umbra Sumus is a spacious soundtrack for any time of year. ****
SURE, IT’S A CONCEPT, BUT THEN SO WAS germ warfare, and it’s a brave or a foolish man who would dare to touch that terrifying hybrid known as the concept album in the cynical days of 1998. Yet despite the worrying signs – suite of songs mixing dance, dub, post-rock and world music with spiritual themes – it’s hard to accuse Jah Wobble of being a foolish man.
The cheerily titled ‘Umbra Sumus’ – ‘We Are Shadows’ – appears to be a musical meditation on history, an attempt to scour through the din and clatter of modern life and find the eternal patterns lurking beneath. Not something you’d try before breakfast, certainly, but ‘Umbra Sumus’ is a project – undoubtedly a ‘project’ – that knows no fear of the Worthy-But-Dull.
Taking a view of London filched from William Blake and a vague, international mysticism, partly supplied by the plaintive voices of Natacha Atlas and Amila Sulejmanovic, Wobble piles on the quasi-religious Imagery. By the time the choral drift of ‘Chela’ floats in ,the only thing missing has been some snake-wrestling and a few Templar knights, yet the best tracks – ‘Paternal Kindness’, ‘Four Basses, An Organ, Jaki And A Train’ – are the sparsest. Often featuring the nervy, skittering pulses of Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit, they come closer to revealing the ghosts and legends under the urban static.
It might not send the angels spinning down from the tress, but ‘Umbra Sumus’ is an intriguing place in the shade. (6)
East Londoner John Wardle, aka Jah Wobble, has always been at the cutting edge of post punk music. His trademark, reverberating, dub-style bass playing defined the sound of the original Public Image Limited, formed by his friend John Lydon in the late ’70s. After PIL’s landmark ‘Metal Box’ a album Wobble moved on, first to work on London Underground before forging his cross-cultural rhythm-based soundscapes. Featuring his Invaders Of The Heart band (who include Jaki Liebezeit of Can, a major influence). ‘Umbra Sumus’ (We Are Shadows) is perhaps Wobble’s best album yet. ‘Paternal Kindness’ and ‘Limehouse Cut’ carry echoes of late-’60s Miles Davis in Harry Becket’s trumpet; dub powers ‘Mount Zion; ‘Il Jevedro Il Oblanco’ highlights the beautiful vocal of Amila Sulejmanovic from Sarajevo; and ‘Moon Slowbeat part 1 and 2’ uses hypnotic Middle-Eastern stylings, via Brick Lane E1, to evoke a moment of tranquillity over the London skylines. Melodic, accessible and grooving, ‘Umbra Sumus’ is a spiritually uplifting experience.