In 2015, Jah Wobble's six-disc Redux retrospective revealed just how deep and wide the bassist's musical reach extends, encompassing everything from post-punk and dub to free jazz and fusion, new age, folk, ambient, neo-classical, spoken word, and pop. Everything Is No Thing was funded by a PledgeMusic campaign and credited to his Invaders of the Heart.
This is Wobble's second collaboration with producer Youth this year -- the first, Celtic Vedic, was issued in the spring, billed to Dub Trees. Everything Is No Thing is a sonically ambitious, musically intuitive homage to some of Wobble's favorite sounds from the '70s. He explores spiritual jazz-funk, punchy Afrobeat, space station dub, progressive disco, and even cosmic soul.
His longtime band consists of drummer Marc Layton-Bennett, acoustic pianist George King, guitarist Martin Chung, and Michael Rendall on Rhodes, vibes, synths, and strings, appended by sax players Chet Doxus, Alex Ward, and Hawkwind's Nik Turner, and trumpeter Sean Corby. Legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen also lends a hand selectively, adding physical heft and drive. "Cosmic Blueprint" melds Stanley Cowell-esque modalism, colossally funky Afrobeat, wonky electronics, and insane breaks topped off by King's sparkling piano solo. Its sequel, "Cosmic Love," uses the same bass theme, and showcases the vocal skills of Alabama 3's Aurora Dawn. The vibe is spiritual soul-jazz (think the horns sections from Carlos Garnett's and Gary Bartz's NTU Troop kissed by the stringed exotica of Alice Coltrane) with dubwise bass and skittering snares underneath. "Deposition" uses Rhodes piano, electric guitars, and blistering saxophone solos in a vamp that weaves elements of Miles and John Coltrane as it invokes "A Love Supreme," "It's About That Time," and "Ife." "Infinity in the Void" delivers a funky soundtrack vibe with Weather Report-esque keyboards, Turner's fantastic, soulful flute, Afro-Cuban percussion, and tough, grooving piano montunos. "Mandala" is ecstatic. Jazz and disco come together with massive brass, tight rim-shot snares, Salsoul Orchestra -styled strings, reverbed saxophones (à la Joe Farrell), and spiky guitars as Wobble's bass rattles the jams cage and holds it down simultaneously. The psychedelic Afrobeat in "Freedom Principle" gives way to souled-out jazz-funk in "Symmetrical Asymmetrical" with Corby delivering killer trumpet breaks. "We-Me," despite honk-tastic saxophones, remains danceable thanks to Wobble's unshakable vamp. The intro to the title cut contains a starry Miles vibe articulated by impressionistic muted trumpet, wah-wah guitar, and hand percussion; but upon the drum kit's entry, it adds muscle, recalling the Donald Byrd of Ethiopian Knights. Closer "Spheres, Spirals & Pyramids" commences with Wobble's incantatory bassline laying a foundation for Chung's Gabor Szabo-esque guitar playing and wafting strings (à la Don Sebesky) as post-bop piano, percussion, and syncopated drums fill out a Latin-Gypsy modal groove. Yes, the references are abundant -- in an homage, they're supposed to be. Wobble employs them with a curator's taste; his skill as a bandleader creates space for disparate tongues to communicate before evolving into a different musical language -- his own. Everything Is No Thing is a monster.