1/  Subcode                                    (Laswell,Wobble)              7.36
  2/  Alsema Dub                                 (Laswell,Wobble,E.Shibabaw)   5.48
  3/  Virus B                                    (Laswell,Wobble)              8.06
  4/  Orion                                      (Laswell,Wobble)              7.51
  5/  6th Chamber                                (Laswell,Wobble)              7.09
  6/  Alam Dub                                   (Laswell,Wobble,E.Shibabaw)   6.49
  7/  Second Sight                               (Laswell,Wobble)              8.35

          Created at Orange Music, West Orange, New Jersey
          Engineering: Robert Musso
          Assistant: James Dellatacoma
          Mix Translation: Bill Laswell
          Produced and directed by Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble
          Axiom: Bill Murphy
          Material, Inc./Design: John Brown
          Mastered by Michael Fossenkemper at Turtle Tone Studios, New York
Jah Wobble: bass; Bill Laswell: bass; Nils Petter Molvaer: trumpet; Graham Haynes: cornet; Nicky Skopelitis: guitar; Ejigayehu “Gigi” Shibabaw: voice; Amina Claudine Myers: organ, electric piano; Tigist Shibabaw: voice; Karsh Kale: drums, tabla; Hamid Drake: drums, table; Sly Dunbar: drums; Aiyb Dieng: percussion.

          2001 - Axiom/Palm Pictures (USA), PALMCD 2073-2 (CD)


Dub in its purest Jamaican roots form can be terribly static, and as a foundation for ambient jams it’s too often a slumbering giant — a monolith of bass and drums impressive for its size yet too dull to hypnotize listeners. Not so this snake charmer of a collaboration. Inventive bassists Wobble and Laswell have played together occasionally for almost 10 years, but this is their first work as a production duo, and it’s genuinely rewarding. They keep such a rich palette of sounds drifting through the skeletons of bass-driven ambient grooves that there’s always something begging for attention: horns that swell and drift, guitar feedback stretched into a human choir via digital delay, snare cracks that give the feel of rock propulsion, organ lines that weld ’60s jazz with ’90s trip-hop, and the sonically doctored East African vocals of Gigi and Tigist Shibabaw giving "Alsema Dub" and "Alam Dub" a feel that’s exotic and otherworldly.

The playing is impeccable and often unusual, from Nicky Skopelitis’s wobbly vibrato-bar guitar in "Orion" to Amina Claudine Myers’s gliding sheets of keyboards, even as the groove (laid down by reggae giant Sly Dunbar when Laswell or Wobble isn’t having at it) holds its ground. The best highs come when as many of these elements as possible combine, as they do in "6th Chamber", where horns, organ, guitar, and a percolating blend of tabla and dumbek merge over the big bottom to create an amiable soundtrack for an Indian sci-fi song-and-dance flick. Quite a musical — and head — trip.

Ted Drozdowski (courtesy of the Boston Phoenix website)


Featuring a cast of characters that includes Nils Petter Molvær, Hamid Drake, Amina Claudine Myers, Sly Dunbar, Aiyb Deng, Nicky Skopelitis, Graham Haynes, Karsh Kale, and vocalist Gigi Shibabbaw, this collaboration between bassists Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble is many things, but it is not a dub album. The music found here is a far cry from the stripped-down, spooky reggae created by the economically strapped Lee Perry and King Tubby. What is here is some gobbledy-gook mishmash of world musics and groove jazz. And as such it works very well. From the dubby spirits evoked in "Subcode" and "Orion," to the vocal wonders expressed amid heavily textured instrumentation by Gig on "Anselma Dub" and "Alam Dub," to the wondrous effects these two layer together — like Skopelitis' slide guitar amid bubbling echo and both basses playing half a beat apart on the same notes — this is a mind journey of an album that does, at its best, extend the time-space continuum, or at least gives the illusion it does. Also, Haynes' cornet solo on "Orion" is among the most beautifully stated and restrained he's ever recorded. The true identity of the disc can be found on "6th Chamber," with its loopy organ figures (courtesy of Myers) and the percussive weave in the center of the mix that is colored with a gentle, grooved-out soul melody in margins. All of it is smoothed over, edgeless and beautifully understated. This may not be the heavy-duty dub blowout expected by some fans of this pair, but it is an elegant, thoughtful, and very tasteful record, assembling a plethora of melodies, textures, instruments, and rhythms with taste and attention to detail. It would have been easy to wreck such beautiful mind music (in headphones this would be Valhalla) — God knows Laswell's done it before.

4 stars out of 5

Thom Jurek (courtesy of the All Music Guide website)