previously released the highly original 2008 Chinese Dub, ex-PIL bassist
Jaw Wobble fittingly followed up two years later with Japanese Dub
through his own label - 30 Hertz Records. The latter should be self-explanatory
to any audiophile worth his or her salt. Attention, attention: we are talking
major sub region territory. Not that you necessarily need a separate subwoofer
to tactilely enjoy the many rumblings of this recording; a solid big box '8
incher' can get the job done, just stay away from those 'miracle' mini woofers.
But don't get me wrong, Japanese Dub is
not just a lame excuse to impress your fellow neighbor in seismic vibrations nor
the mere relevance of a 38 foot wavelenght; it is a fascinating exploration of
two distinct musical and cultural heritages intertwined. Not only are the
traditional instruments of each completely different in musical scales and
execution, so are the natural overtone intervals and frequency spectrum
distribution. Indeed the latter's contrasting styles complementing one another,
the resultant being a very wide bandwidth in frequency, melody and harmony. It
is said that Wobble felt artistically restricted within the PIL 'framework'.
Somewhat surprising given the challenging experimental music they espoused, even
more so for the period; we are talking about the late 1970s - early 1980s after
all. Within the quartet, bassist Jah Wobble infused heavy dub on their sound, a
signature trademark he still brings to his post PIL projects.
The CD is housed in a standard jewelbox
comprising a sixteen page booklet mainly describing Wobble's exploration and
fusion of dub and traditional Japanese music, of which the cover illustrates the
Japanese character for Ma. In part based on his prior study in traditional
Chinese music, it's an interesting read for admittedly a neophyte on the subject
like myself. Instruments of interest are presented along with a respect for
Japanese and Chinese culture, bringing a Zen atmosphere - and in effect Zen
Buddhism is reflected upon within - to the fore. General credits can be found
towards the end.
Recorded at three different studios and
engineered by Paul Madden, Ando and Wobble; himself producing and mastering the
album. The presentation though informative is visually bland with only a few
subdued drawings printed on basic paper; the net effect being a bit
disappointing. At best one could describe it as a low-key approach reflecting
Zen philosophy but still, some kind of textured paper would have helped greatly.
Japanese Dub features eleven tracks, five
of which are variations of the same song - "Kokiriko" - which it seems
is one of the oldest Japanese songs, dating back a thousand years ago. It's also
a percussive instrument. Mixing traditional Japanese singing, Koto (strings),
Shakuhachi (flute) and Jah Wobble's bass; the whole produces one big harmonious
sound with warm treble detail balancing out the muffled bass. Tracks 4-5-10
& 11 are alternate dub versions, some tending towards a more reggae 'feel',
while others truly emphasizing the dub side with 'Roland type' space (tape) echo
in differing amounts and loop speeds.
"Shinto Dub" opens the album with bass
reaching down quite deep. Metronomic metallic percussion gives an industrial,
chain-gang cadence, overlaid by an aggressive sustained sinewave-type sound. At
times distortion and saturated bass can be heard - too be sure this was not
system dependent, I tested it on different tube & transistor amps and
speakers at varied levels. I reserve some doubts that this was a desired
creative effect; rather I suspect this is a defect given the overblown bass
energy. Depending on the listener, this cited phenomenon accompanied by some
compression can irritate, leading to mild listener fatigue. Conversely, when
demoing only one track at a time, it can impress on certain levels.
The second track "Cherry Blossom Of My
Youth" leads with female Spoken word. Koto and low-fi beat box , followed
by deep reaching bass establish a groove. A distorted gong contrasts with a
clean Shamisen - a Japanese three stringed instrument. Moving on to "Hokkai
Bon Uta"; vocals, Shakuhachi combined with backing vocals is very special;
you can feel the sense of sadness.
"Ma" starts with solo Shakuhachi. One can perceive the vast recording space, for which "Ma" represents the sense between notes, the interval, the emptiness where "lies infinite compassion". The bass making it's appearance later on accompanied by an electro rhythm - phaser processed - borrows from early Kraftwerk. Again 'Roland type' space echo box is exploited. Quite original.
"Taiko Dub" is the heaviest track with weighty panned Taiko drums, gong and distorted sustained lows. But close on the heels is "Mishima /Kurosawa"; it displays a very well captured flute with a background resembling an open field or jungle. In addition, Spoken word and 'Jurassic' pounding Taiko drums hammering away create an eerie ambience.
With Japanese Dub, musician Jah Wobble demonstrates once again is ongoing musical journey continues; persuing and discovering new avenues that the godfathers of Dub could never have imagined.