New Music

Jah Wobble/Bill Laswell
Radioaxiom: A Dub Transmission
Axiom/Palm Pictures

This would never have occurred to Sid Vicious—not even during his bouts with sobriety—and Johnny Rotten/John Lydon wouldn't have permitted it: that Jah Wobble, a member of Lydon's dissonant noise band Public Image, the guy who taught himself to play on Vicious' bass, would eventually release music (with Bill Laswell) this graceful and this trippy. Both bassists are famous for creating sounds that are adventurous and ambitious—and frequently unwieldy. The odds were good that this, their first official collaboration, would turn into a graveyard of good musical intentions never quite realized. Instead, Radioaxiom is a wonderful trip around Jupiter, as streamlined as an avant-fusion jam session can get. It's deceptively simple, spacey and packed with riffs that take no wrong steps, built by Wobble and Laswell's double bass attack. They occasionally duet, and one or the other always leads each of these seven tracks with a dub bass groove. That dub bass breathes life into a world beat of musicians: drummers from Senegal and Jamaica (such as the ubiquitous Sly Dunbar, of course); singers from Ethiopia; and a collection of organ, horn and guitar players. Whether it's Wobble's forceful sound or Laswell's more easygoing style, the music drifts into a compelling, sometimes soothing Miles Davis-inspired meditation. While they never prove that the bass is capable of dominating a band the way a guitar or trumpet can, they still show that two bassists can pack melodies and rhythms into a hot, tight, accessible package.

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