Jah Wobble seems unwilling, or perhaps incapable, of slowing down. In 2016, he took to the crowdsourcing website PledgeMusic to get his Invaders of the Heart reunion off the ground with the release of Everything Is No Thing. After the band honed their skills on the road, Wobble had the Invaders of the Heart record the double album The Usual Suspects in 2017. Then, sometime after being committed to a hospital after his 59th birthday, Wobble found time to record a solo album at home named Dream World. It’s just as tough and funky as most everything else the iconic post-punk/jazz-fusion bassist has recorded since first picking up his instrument for Public Image, Ltd. all those years ago. To think that he pulled off a majority of this album all by himself makes it all the more admirable.
Invaders of the Heart keyboardist George King plays on three of Dream World‘s nine tracks. Apart from that, no one else appears to be credited. Dream World, however, doesn’t have that homely, home-cooked feel that many other solo albums recorded in a home studio have. The opener, “A Chunk of Funk”, is thrust upon the listener with so much energy that you would be forgiven for thinking that is was laid down in an expensive Los Angeles or New York studio with George Clinton looking over Wobble’s shoulder. Tight, clean guitars, trilling flutes, buzzing synths, and sly background vocals all help to send the album in flight within the first minute of play.
But you only need to listen to half of Dream World to understand that it does not stay in one spot stylistically for long. “L’autoroute Sans Fin”, one of the tracks to feature King, nails metropolitan ivory-tickling to a rhythmic backdrop that’s more trip-hop than it is jazz. “NHS Ward Tune”, presumably inspired by Wobble’s stay in Stepping Hill hospital, sounds kind of goofy in comparison to the rest of the musicianship being flaunted. The saw synths that provide the melody, if that is indeed what it is, sound too warbly to be taken seriously. “On Steroids” comes next, setting the scene of a very calm ocean with steady burbling to help push it along. “On Valium” might have been a more apt title.
At least two songs go through a most unsubtle shift partway through. “Havana”, as one expects, is fiery Latin. The horn parts sizzle and the rhythm rumbas. At the 3:23 mark, the beat shifts entirely to an awkward waltz. “Cuban” starts life in a more contemporary manner, takes a hard left into the digital murk, only to find the Latin beat flattened into a disco one. I don’t know what the endgame is for these two songs, but they’re fun.
By the time the listener reaches “Spirit of the Thames” and the closer “Strange Land”, Dream World is certainly living up to its mysterious name. The latter certainly takes on the traits of a Bill Laswell collaboration with the slow dub beats, the combing sound filter, and spacey synthesizers on a journey to nowhere in particular. You could see Dream World as a floundering piece of non-committal art, or you can take it as an eclectic ride where anything is game. But even a cynic from column A would have to admit that this is a mighty strong album.