Wednesday 20 September 2023

Steve Hillage

Khan - Hollow Stone (inc. Escape Of The Space Pilots) - (1972)
I'm totally confused today because this was always the "Space Pirates" song. I'm sure the cd I've got (somewhere) from maybe 98 or 99 had this as The Escape Of The Space Pirates. There seems to be a glitch in my matrix.

Anyway how good is this tune?

Steve Hillage had recorded with the pre-Egg outfit Arzachel on their debut LP in 1969 but Khan was the first band that was his own where he was the main man. The Space Pirates is the epic closing track from Khan's one and only album and it's an ace prog tune with some pretty cool pyrotechnics emanating from Steve's guitar. Actually the entire Space Shanty LP is pretty good little bit of prog that we should all have a listen to. 


Steve Hillage - Rainbow Dome Musick (1979)
IN the early 90s we knew Steve Hillage because of his collaborations on records by The Orb and his own ambient house records with System 7. Then the discovery of this classic proto-ambient solo record from 1979 was an absolute revelation. Rainbow Dome Musick had gained a new lease of life as a chill-out room record.

Of course Steve's secret weapon on most of his recordings is his silent partner and mrs, MIquette Giraudy, who plays wonderful fender rhodes, synth and Tibetan bells here. This is where the space rock stops being rock and is just becomes space static: a gorgeously hovering, lush and intricately crafted ambient space where visions of fantastical futuristic idyllic landscapes with shimmering streams and glimmering solar waves are conjured. Eternally serene.

It wasn't until a few years later that I would get around to discovering his earlier fully hairy proggy space rock records which also turned out to be revelatory...and then there were the Gong records he played due to my ignorance he was the gift that kept on giving. 

"Oh no Steve Hillage" So Neil was the first person to alert a lot of us to the charms of Steve Hillage although I guess we were probably meant to dismiss Neil's taste in music.

Steve Hillage - Fish Rising (1975)
Always with the aquatic vibes. When Steve's exhilarating guitar along with Mike Howlett's bass get going on The Salmon Song, oh boy what a space rock ride then that aquatic lull bassoon bit from Lindsay Cooper...oh my.

Between the break up of Khan and this record Steve had spent time in Gong contributing to their classic run of albums The Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy. By the time Steve, the most likeable man in prog, got around to recording his first solo album proper Fish Rising he had discovered "atmosphere and ambience". He'd also become a master of the glissando guitar which was a trippy technique he'd learnt from Head Gong Daevid Allen. So his post-psychedelic bag of tricks was expanding by the minute. 

Surely these are the best sounding guitar shapes in all of prog - sometimes surprisingly heavy, bubbling, weird, echoing, birdlike, aqueous, furious, floating and spaced out - often all within the same song. His guitar is in a constant state of inventive flux. The magic of Hillage on Fish Rising is that he makes prog fun, never pompous or tedious. He makes exciting blissful enjoyment an utmost priority. Now that's rare. 

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