JAH WOBBLE PRESENTS: PJ HIGGINS-INSPIRATION.

JAH WOBBLE PRESENTS: PJ HIGGINS-INSPIRATION.

During a career that’s spanned nearly forty years, Jah Wobble has always sought to create groundbreaking music. This has been the case since Jah’s solo career began in the late-seventies. Back then, Jah was a bassist, singer, songwriter and poet. However, Jah’s breakthrough came when he joined John Lydon’s post-punk pioneers, P.I.L. Jah was a member of P.I.L. right through to 1981, when he left to pursue a solo career.

Since1981, Jah’s solo career has been a sonic adventure. He’s never stood still. Each Jah Wobble album is different. He’s released over thirty albums since 1981, including albums of alt rock, ambient, dubby dance, experimental and world music. This is why Jah Wobble is considered one of music’s innovators. He’s constantly challenged musical norms, and seeking to push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, beyond. That’s why no Jah Wobble album is the same. Far from it. Each new Jah Wobble album is akin to a sonic adventure. That’s still the case. One listen to Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration, which will be released on Sonar Kollektiv, on 2nd June 2014, and you’ll realise this. 

Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration sees Jah return to the music that inspired him, reggae. For this collaboration, Jah joined forces with singer and songwriter PJ Higgins.

For many people, PJ Higgins will be a new name. That’s not the case. She’s been around since 1996. Back then, PJ was using the aliases Julie and Julianna. Then in 2000, she dawned the role of Princess Julianna. However, in 2006, Princess Julianna became PJ Higgins. Just like Jah Wobble, PJ Wobble is a musical chameleon. On Inspiration, they proved to be a potent partnership. After all, here was one of music’s best kept secrets joining forces with a musical legend on the aptly titled Inspiration.

Inspiration is a reggae album. This is quite fitting, as is was the music that Jah Wobble grew up listening to, in Whitechapel, in the East End of London. Back then, he was still John Joseph Wardle. He was born in  August 1958,  and grew up on Whitechapel’s Clichy Estate. John attended the London’s Kingsway College, where his friendship with John Lydon was born. 

At College, both John Lydon and Jah both shared a love of music. It seemed almost inevitable that they’d form a band. This was The Four Johns. The other members were John Simon Ritchie, who’d later would reinvent himself as Sid Vicious and John Gray. It was during this period, that Jah Wobble was born. However, it wasn’t until Jah joined P.I.L. that his musical career began. 

Jah Wobble was one of the original members of P.I.L, which was founded in 1978. By then, Jah was twenty and an assured and talented bassist. He’d an eclectic musical taste, but reggae and world music especially, inspired Jah and John Lydon. This shawn through on their music. P.I.L. released their debut album Public Image: First Issue, in 1978. The followup Metal Box, was P.I.L’s seminal album. Released in 1979 to critical acclaim, it was an album P.I.L. never surpassed. A year later, P.I.L. released their first live album, Paris au Printemps, in 1980. This was the final P.I.L album Jah Wobble played on. He left the band and embarked upon a solo career.

This was the start of a musical journey full of twists and turns. Jah’s debut solo  album was 1980s The Legend Lives On… Jah Wobble In Betrayal. It was an innovative, genre-melting album. So was Jah’s sophomore album, 1983s The Bedroom Album. However, during the three year gap between albums, Jah had been busy collaborating.

Jah’s first collaboration was with Can’s Holger Czukay. The result was 1982s Full Circles. Snake Charmer followed in 1983. These two albums were the first in a series of collaborations Jah would embark upon. Collaborations seemed to inspire Jah. It was as if he was a sponge, soaking up all the ideas and influences. He’d go on to collaborate with Ollie Marland on 1985s Neon Winds and 1986s Tradewinds. The after releasing Psalms in 1987, Jah’s next collaboration was with one of the most innovative British artists, Brian Eno.

Spinner was released in 1995. It was a collaboration between two generations of musicians. Brian Eno had been around since the seventies, and was perceived as the musical establishment. Jah was still perceived as one of music’s angry young men. Despite their very different musical backgrounds, Spinner was critically acclaimed. This just happened to coincide with one of the most productive periods in Jah’s career.

Heaven and Earth was released in 1995, and was the start of one of the most productive periods in Jah’s career. The Inspiration Of William Blake followed in 1996. Then in 1997, Jah signed to 30 Hertz Records and released a string of well received albums. This included 1997s The Light Program and 1998s Requiem and 1998s Jah Wobble Presents Zi Lan Liao-The Five Tone Dragon. Deep Space followed in 1998. With each album, Jah was pushing musical boundaries. He was determined not to sit still. That wasn’t an option. Especially when Jah was about embark on collaborations with fellow innovators.

The first of these was a collaboration with Bill Laswell on A Dub Transmission. It was released in 2001, on 30 Hertz Records. So was Jah Wobble and Evan Parker’s Passage To Hades. Then in 2002, Jah Wobble and Temple Of Sound collaborated on Shout At The Devil. Released in 2002, critics hailed the album an inventive meeting of minds. Despite this, Jah turned his back on collaborations for a few years.

Instead, he returned to his solo career. Fly was released in 2002 on 30 Hertz Records, with Ode following in 2003. Jah then released the soundtrack to Fureur in 2004, before returning to 30 Hertz Records, with Elevator Music Volume 1A, one of Jah’s most groundbreaking albums. However, despite the critical acclaim and plaudits heaped upon Elevator Music Volume 1A, Jah changed direction.

Next for Jah was the release of Live In Leuven, where Jah collaborated with Can’s Jaki Liebezeit and Philip Jeck. It was also released in 2004, by 30 Hertz Records, and showed that Jah was constantly attempting to reinvent himself. So, in 2005, Jah released Mu on reggae label Trojan Records. Then in 2006, Jah released Jah Wobble And The English Roots Band. Jah it seemed, was a musical chameleon.

That’s been the case the last few years. Jah released Alpha One Three in 2006 30 Hertz Records, then Heart In Soul in 2007, on Trojan Records. Car Ad Music was released in 2009 in 30 Hertz Records, with Welcome To World following in 2010. After that, Jah released a trio of collaborations.

The first of these was Psychic Life, a collaboration with Julie Campbell released in 2011. Next was Yin and Yang, a collaboration between Jah and Keith Levene, which was released in 2012. Then last year, 2013, Jah and Marconi Union collaborated with Anomic, a dubby, downtempo album. The latest addition to Jah Wobble’s discography is Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration.

Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration, features eight tracks. Joining Jah and PJ Higgins are guitarist guitarist Alex McGowan and trumpeter Sean Corby, who brings a touch of Studio One to Inspiration. Along with Jah’s trademark bass and PJ’s vocals, Inspiration should prove to be an inspirational and innovative album, which I’ll tell you about.

My Heart’s Burning opens Inspiration. A tender, heartfelt vocal emerges from the arrangement. Soon, the vocal’s a mixture of power, passion and pain. Dubby drums, dominate the mix. A probing, pounding bass and chiming guitars flit in and out of the mix. Harmonies are panned. They ping pong, while cinematic guitars meander in and out of the arrangement. Effects are used. Reverb and delay add a dubby sound. This has the effect of making the arrangement quiver. Mostly, though, the arrangement has a classic dub sound. It’s the perfect foil for PJ’s beautiful, soul-baring vocal.

Thundering, dubby drums reverberate as I Did Bad unfolds. Effects are added, as Jah unleashes his trusty bass, producing a masterclass. Jah a musical veteran, leads from the front. Pounding, dubby licks join the drums and Andy McGowan’s guitar. The arrangement surrounds PJ’s sultry, seductive vocal. Occasionally, subtle effects are added to her vocal. Not enough to take the edge of her sassy, sultry, soulful. This is dub, but not as we know it. PJ swaggers her way through the track. Meanwhile, a myriad or instruments and effects are added. This adds to the full-on dub experience. Guitars add an Eastern twist, while Jah marries dub, to PJ’s sassy fusion of Nu Soul and R&B. The result is a glorious genre-melting track.

King Of Illusion sees the reggae influence shine through. It’s as if Jah has discovered a lost track from Studio One’s vaults and given it a 21st Century makeover. Gone is the dub of previous tracks. The rhythm section provide the heartbeat. They’re joined by the dusty sound of a Hammond organ played by Jah and Sean Corby’s trumpet. Its rasping sound adds a vintage old school reggae sound. Then there’s  PJ’s vocal is best described as a slow, soulful and spiritual. PJ combines Nu-Soul, R&B and reggae, as Jah Wobble and his all-star band create a glorious slice of old school reggae.

Jah takes the original version of King Of Illusion  and gives it a Dub makeover. Effects are added to the arrangement, mainly reverb, echo and delay. They’re not overused. The arrangement is driven along by the rhythm section. Meanwhile, the Hammond organ and percussion seem to play starring roles. They replace PJs vocal, which only makes fleeting appearances. When it does, effects are added to her vocal. Later, Jah ups the ante, and starts to unleash the effects. This proves really effective. Especially, when used on the trumpet. It cascades above the arrangement, as the track reaches a dub-drenched crescendo.

Inspiration seems reticent about revealing its secrets. Gradually, it does. Drums, handclaps, Hammond organ and Jah’s bass combine. Soon, Inspiration reveals its secrets. The arrangement is a fusion of influences. Reggae, dub,  world music, jazz and funk seems to have influenced Jah and his band. Jah plays some of his best bass lines. He makes it seem so easy. It’s not. He’s ones of the best. So is Alex McGown’s trademark guitar playing. However, what grabs your attention is PJ’s vocal. It’s truly impassioned. Diva-esque and inspirational describes PJ’s performance on Inspiration.

Keyboards and Jah’s choppy bass combine on Watch How You Walk. Stabs of piano and pounding drums  provide the backdrop to PJ’s vocal. Sometimes, effects are added to PJ’s vocal, as she combines R&B, reggae and Nu-Soul. Meanwhile, the band are recreating a slice of old school reggae. Concern and fear fill PJs vocal. Especially when she sings: “Watch How You Walk at night, don’t let it be your resting place.” When her vocal drops out, Jah’s bass takes centre-stage. He showcases his inconsiderable skills. Jah and PJ prove a potent partnership fusing reggae, R&B, Nu-Soul with a hint of hip hop.

Jah takes charge of the vocal on Chaingang. Unaccompanied, he sings call and response, while the rest of the band, including PJ, replicate the sound of the Chaingang with handclaps and foot-stomps. Soon, Jah’s dark, probing bass enters. It’s the only instrument that accompanies the vocal. This works,  allowing the vocal to take centre-stage and you to share the despair, pain and suffering of those on the Chaingang.

Closing Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration, is What Have I Become? Jah’s picks at his bass before a myriad of drums and percussion create a voodoo-esque backdrop. This perfect for PJ’s sassy, swaggering vocal. She struts her way through a track that’s inspired by world music, especially Haitian and African music. It’s a truly irresistible combination, that’s akin to a call to dance. Quite simply, resistance is impossible. All you can do, is submit to What Have I Become’s irresistible charms.

So, that’s the story of Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration. Not only is Inspiration the latest addition to Jah Wobble’s discography, but an introduction to one of music’s best kept secrets, PJ Higgins. She’s been around since 1996, but hasn’t made a commercial breakthrough. That’s despite being a talented singer and songwriter. However, all that may be about to change on Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration, which will be released on Sonar Kollektiv, on 2nd June 2014.

Just like so many collaborations that Jah Wobble has been involved with, Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration is a groundbreaking, genre-melting album of innovative music. Musical norms are challenged. Similarly, musical boundaries are pushed to their limits, as Jah and PJ combine musical genres. Everything including dub, reggae and world music is combined with Nu-Soul, R&B and briefly, hip hop, jazz and funk. It’s a heady and potent brew. 

Especially with Jah laying down some of his trademark bass lines. Then there PJ Higgins’ vocals. They’re stunning. That’s the case From the moment she makes her debut on My Heart’s Burning. Right through to she swaggers and struts her way through What Have I Become, you’re spellbound by PJ. She’s capable of combining power, passion, emotion and sass. Lyrics come to life, while Jah combines dub and reggae. Mostly, Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration is full-on dub. There’s a homage to the vintage reggae sound on King Of Illusion. It’s one of Inspiration’s highlights. It’s as if Jah has discovered a lost track from Studio One’s vaults and given it a 21st Century makeover. However, it’s unfair to single out just one track. Each track on Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration oozes quality.

During each of the eight songs on Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration, musical influences and genres melt seamlessly into one. The result is spellbinding, captivating and enthralling. With each listen, you hear new sounds, influences and musical textures. Layer upon layer of music reveals itself. Musical subtleties, secrets and surprises gradually unfold. Other times, the During each song, musical influences and genres melt seamlessly into one. The result is spellbinding, captivating and enthralling. With each listen, you hear new sounds, influences and musical textures. Layer upon layer of music reveals itself. Musical subtleties, secrets and surprises gradually unfold. Other times, the music on Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration is infectiously catchy. Irresistible, it’s akin to a call to dance. You can’t help but submit to its charms.That’s why  Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration is an eclectic magical musical mystery tour, where two musical chameleons, Jah Wobble and PJ Higgins provide a glorious soundtrack. 

 

JAH WOBBLE PRESENTS: PJ HIGGINS-INSPIRATION.

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