Jah Wobble & the Invaders of the Heart ‘Everything is Nothing’ 8.5/10
Admirers of Jah Wobble’s previous long form outings with the bespoke collection of musicians he assembled and titled the Invaders of the Heart, were virtually tumescent with expectation when it was revealed that this 10 song outing was ready to ‘drop’ in July, they will be overjoyed when they hear that clearly the protracted wait was worthwhile. Very worthwhile.
What with the bewilderingly diverse excursions and projects over the last couple of years, such as Chinese Dub and assisting Youth with the third part of his Dub Trees Triptych on the wondrous *‘Celtic Vedic’ album, it feels like he’s back doing his day job; with the added bonus of Youth assuming a co-producer role:
Wobble: “This was oneof the most enjoyable sessions I’ve ever done & it’s been a great honour to work with this great & influential artist”
To say that this is a confident album is to almost damn it with faint praise, and when one realises that the colourfully vibrant artwork (shades of Paul Klee) was actually done by the bassist, this is surely an indicator that he’s fully engaged and immersed in this project :
‘I often paint geometric shapes as it co-relates to my bass playing’’
‘Cosmic Blueprint’ is a strong opening shot, and comes as no surprise then that Wobble kicks off proceedings with one of his pleasingly memorable bass riffs, which is in turn doubled-up with a nicely woozy bass sequencer; and from here it goes from strength-to-strength. The rest of the Invaders then both singularly and collectively flex their collective melodic muscles; sometimes skittering and at other points fiercely funky until it reaches its confident conclusion. Now that, right there, is how to open an album!
Upon first listen ‘Cosmic Love’ sounds familiar and with good reason as it’s a slow and sensual retooling of the preceding ‘Blueprint’. Again, this demonstrates confidence and conviction. Most artists, when deciding the running order of the songs would have left this as the final track, a single or ‘bonus track’, but clearly this is the ‘Invaders Rule Book’; where such trivialities are considered anathema.
Sweet soul is the mood evinced here as Aurora’s multi-layered and feline vocals intone: ‘Cosmic Love will set you free’, in harmonious conjunction with Sean Correy’s trumpet interjections. This is nothing less than modern siren song, and I for one would be happy to follow its call to see what fate awaits me!
As if to stave off any criticism that this is merely a solo album by a different name, on ‘Depositions’ Wobble is content to underplay his hand and let the Invaders shine and in particular saxophonist Doxus, of whom Wobble graciously notes ‘just about steals the show!’; takes to the metaphorical spotlight and blows up a storm.
The legendary (in the most literal sense) Tony Allen ushers in ‘Infinity in the Void’ with a trademark, skittering and dextrous flurry. Mr Allen was drummer/arranger for no less a personage than master musician Fela Kuti; and has been described by Brian Eno as: ‘the greatest drummer that’s ever lived’. Via a memorable and hooky piano figure, we are compelled to follow the musicians into a jazzy cyclical groove that’s both inviting and inclusive. There’s a nice rise and fall in instrumentation that gradually resolves with all the players exiting quietly and smoothly.
‘Mandala’ is prefaced by a bass line that’s on nodding terms with the O’Jays ‘For the Love of Money’ and is every bit as good as that implies. The slow build is a joy as Moog squelches and harmonics jockey for space. Funky horns and strings then assume dominance. Half way through the drums suddenly perform a volts face and switch to a standard ‘four-on-the-floor-‘ and then pretty much switch back and forth again as they see fit but eventually give way for a clever coda that’s a gumbo of textures and effects with Wobble’s bass eventually reasserting itself once more .Clever stuff.
‘Freedom Principle’ starts with a Xanadu/paradise-like soundscape which was something explored on the Dub Trees’ ‘Celtic Vedic’ (one of this years’ other triumphs), which serves also a middle section change down. This is one of the albums more expansive and exploratory moments, oscillating between funk and jazz and everything in-between; with the added bonus of the return of Doxus’s sax.
‘Symmetrical/Asymmetrical’ clearly and cleverly has two stylistic musical sections (nothing so mundane as ‘verse’ and ‘chorus’). The first is the afro-jazz influenced exploratory section that would ordinarily be the ‘verse’ and the second is a trip to 70’s New York with Donald Byrd for a guide and the sum of the whole is not unlike ‘Sandinista!’-era Clash and ‘Lightning Strikes’ to be more specific. The songs replete with all kind of stop/start dynamics and sounds like the players had a good time putting it down.
The titular ‘Everything Is No Thing’ is exploratory funk/jazz (think 70’s Miles Davis) as opposed to jazz/funk and the double-time bass line is unorthodox but works well to stop any ‘too laid back’ accusations and the soporific strings are a just a joy.
And all too soon we alight at our last stop: ’Spheres, Spirals and Pyramids’ which is as ‘out there’ as the title implies and a fitting set closer. The exploratory strings and percussive touches at the start give way to an insistent and trademark Wobble bass line which ascends then drop dramatically and becomes the songs spine and this is a good thing as percussion and keyboards fight for dominance it would otherwise possibly have sounded a little too ‘free’ but the Chief locks it down nice ‘n’ tight.
It was during this song that I realised how fabulously everything was recorded and produced to its optimum strength: the bass is cavernous, the snares are nicely snappy and there is widescreen low end, the percussion is clean and concise and the guitars and keyboards associated reverbs are just perfect. I listened to this on headphones and the stereo field separation is akin to having them perform live for you. Yes, that good.
There is not a single note that should not be there, and despite the fact that at some points two or even three separate solos or textures might be heard, at no point is there a sense of confusion or a senseover or underplaying
Wobble’s management recently informed me that JW’s working on fully three projects at the moment. One I would guess (and fervently hope) is the Orb project that Youth alluded to but as for the other two only time will tell. Without sounding like an advert strapline, whatever he produces will no doubt still be work of quality and distinction.
Rahman the Writer © 2016
*If you would like more info on the Celtic Vedic album, you can read my review here:https://rahmanthewriter.com/2016/07/15/dub-trees-celtic-vedic/
** My interview with Youth can be read here:
Other listening: Miles Davis: ‘On The Corner’ and LTJ Bukem: ‘Journey Inwards’