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Jah Wobble and Bill Laswell



Jah Wobble and Bill Laswell have got to be two of the more interesting fellows ever to pick up a bass guitar. The former, born John Wardle, was a buddy of John Lydon's who briefly played in PiL after the Sex Pistols. After a falling out with Lydon, he embarked on a solo career which saw him collaborate with a number of interesting musicians, making weird experimental music that incorporated reggae, dub, fusion, and ethnic music from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. His career took a serious downturn in the late '80s before being resurrected through collaborations with Sinéad O'Connor and Primal Scream and the formation of his successful experimental fusion group called Invaders of the Heart. Soon after Wobble founded that group in 1990, he also began collaborating with Laswell. This was to be only one of Wobble's collaborative ventures of the '90s, a decade which also saw him work with Brian Eno and fellow ex-PiL members, but it has perhaps been the most fruitful.

While Wobble was palling around with Lydon and working with PiL in the late '70s and early '80s, Laswell was making a name for himself in New York's avant-garde underground. In 1979, he formed the still-active Material, which soon became notorious for its bold fusion of jazz, funk, punk, hip hop, and ethnic music. In the years that followed, Laswell began a successful solo career as well as playing on recordings by such key experimentalists as John Zorn, Fred Frith, Herbie Hancock, The Golden Palominos, and Laurie Anderson. By 1990, Laswell had founded a techno label, Axiom, and become a sought-after producer who has provided his services for wide range of musicians which includes Bootsy Collins, Eno, Motörhead, The Last Poets, and Yoko Ono.

Laswell and Wobble first recorded under the name Divination in the early '90s, issuing Ambient Dub, Volumes 1 and 2 in '93 and '94. These were extended forays into the spaciest, most psychedelic regions of ambient music, marked by the hypnotic drone of the two musicians' twin basses, gentle dub effects, and subtle ethnic music embellishments. 2001's Radioaxiom: A Dub Transmission finds the duo working in much the same vein. Conceived by Laswell as a kind of "alien broadcast," Radioaxiom is not a true dub album in the sense of King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry's stripped-down effects-ridden experiments with reggae. Rather, the album takes the repetitive hypnotism of dub and marries it with the trance-inducing qualities of the Indian tabla, the blissful exoticism of the jazz fusion cornet fugue, the transporting passion of the gospel soloist, and the all-consuming otherworldliness of the ambient electronic wash. There's lots more here too, but it's Laswell and Wobble's dual subterranean basses which form the spine for their exotic, entrancing music.