JAH WOBBLE and DEEP SPACE at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Saturday (October 13). $15. 416-532-1598. Rating: NNNNN
at this stage in his remarkable career, Jah Wobble can pretty much do whatever he wants.If that means that the former subway driver turned PiL bassist puts out a sonic accompaniment to the verses of William Blake or simultaneously releases an album of pure dub and another two-disc set of Moroccan-influenced acoustic trance music, so be it.
The low-end plucker approaches music with his ears open. Like the work of his pal Bill Laswell, with whom he collaborates on the new Radioaxiom: A Dub Transmission disc, no two Wobble projects sound alike, and the vibe often even changes within a single album.
That said, Wobble insists there is a thread running through the various strains of his musical output, from the post-punk and dub of his early days to the stretched-out ambient drones of his current work. It is, as he cheerily admits, "all Wobble."
"There is a continuity for me," the charming bassist insists from his London pad. "People always say to me, "Oh, this record is so different from what you did in PiL, isn't it?,' and to me it's not.
"It's all modal, dubby and droning. There's always this sense in what I do that the music itself isn't the thing, it's what it's invoking. There's this spiritual means to an end in making music. The links are there, not just in my music but also in music in general. We just get used to boxing things up."
That spiritual quality is clear in the project Wobble's bringing to Toronto Saturday (October 13). His Deep Space quartet matches the ecstatic improvisations of Moroccan music with deep dub shots and herky-jerky rhythms.
With songs regularly stretching over 15 minutes, the groove on Deep Space's Largely Live In Hartlepool And Manchester disc is a gradual one, but also surprisingly intense.
"It's Messiaen meets medieval pipe music, Greek modes meet King Tubby," crows Wobble. "I chose players who'd been around the block a few times. We have a drummer, Mark Sanders, who's really phenomenal and maybe one of the best drummers since Jaki Liebezeit (of Can).
"We've also got (Wire writer) Clive Bell, who walks in with a shopping sack full of primitive instruments I've never heard of before, things called Thai pi saw flutes and stereo goathorns. I'll occasionally give him a few cues as to what to play, maybe by yelling, "Flute!' when we're playing, but most of this comes together on the night, with no pre-conceived ideas. It's thrilling when it works and funny when it doesn't.
"My job is to make sure it's not a tedious night where we say to the audience, "Excuse us while we look for our thing for 30 minutes.' Trust me, mate, no one wants to hear that."