Eclectic former PiL bass man Jah Wobble teams up with wife Zi Lan Liao to produce his best post-Invaders of the Heart album yet, a dubby yang to the yin of Damon Albarn’s Journey to the West Chinese opera
Chinese Dub does exactly what it says on the tin, although the listener has to wait till the album is five tracks in before hearing that familiar Wobble bass rumble and (not so heavy this time) reggae dub sound, encasing a mellifluous mix of guzheng (Chinese zither), flute, pipes and various liquid keyboard arrangements and contributions from two excellent female Chinese vocalists (Wang Jinqi and Gu Yinji). Prior to that, we are treated to a spacey, atmospheric overture that has little real bearing on the sharp, sweet and sexy mix of Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian folk melodies and modern beats to come.
The accent is definitively Chinese (there are excellent contributions from Liverpool’s Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra), with Wobble and his regular band restrained in their framing of the Eastern elements, a carefully honed appreciation of the roots of the mix inherent in every arrangement.
Wobble toured the full orchestra in the summer of 2008, with the band’s performance at WOMAD generally considered to be one of the highlights (and surprises) of the festival, and it’s worth buying (rather than downloading) the album for the full story of how Wobble (and family: his father-in-law and sons also play a part) developed this fascinating collaboration between Eastern and Western cultures.