Monday, November 29, 2010

Steve Hillage - Rainbow Dome Musick (LP Review)

I first became aware of Steve Hillage by listening to and reading about Alex Patterson / The Orb, specifically their 1991 ambient house masterpiece "Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld", which remains one of my favorite LPs of all time.

There is no way in this review I can cover the expansive career of guitarist Steve Hillage, an early (and again current) member of the space rock band Gong, which in its long run has ties to nearly every alternative UK musician. His partner, Miquette Giraudy, has been with him for most of his career, including time in Gong as well as side projects like System 7. In fact, although "Rainbow Dome Musick" is billed as just Steve Hillage, it is actually Hillage & Giraudy.

The 1979 LP features just two songs (albeit at 20+ minutes each): "Garden of Paradise" and "Four Ever Rainbow", the former written by Giraudy and the latter by Hillage. What separates this LP from its 1970s ambient / space rock contemporaries is that holds up well over time. It is very much an atmospheric, lush, swirling soundscape, but it is not cloying, repetitive, or modish. I have a slight preference for "Garden of Paradise", probably because it has a brighter, fuller sound that is closer to the songs by The Orb that I first heard. I want to say "Four Ever Rainbow" sounds more like "deep space", even though I'm not sure what that means.

There is a reason these two songs sound similar to songs by The Orb: if you check the liner notes of "Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld", you'll see that Hillage & Giraudy co-wrote & performed on "Supernova at the End of the Universe" and "Backside of the Moon". In particular, there is a strong affinity between "Backside of the Moon" and "Garden of Paradise". The Orb adds a rhythm, vocal samples, and other 1990s updates, but the essence of the songs remain similar (see also Hillage & Giraudy's work in System 7).

Although not entirely fair to the "Rainbow Dome Musick", due to my order of discovery I can't help but consider it in the context of post-"Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld". The LP still stands up well, but their work with The Orb did take it to the next level.

Standout songs: Garden of Paradise (part 1, part 2, part 3), Four Ever Rainbow (part 1, part 2). Thanks to occhiochecorre for uploading to YouTube and arranging in a playlist.

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final score: 8/10.

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