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Steve Hillage - Fish Rising CD (album) cover


Steve Hillage


Canterbury Scene

4.10 | 473 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars One of the unsung heroes of guitar god status of the 70s prog scene, STEVE HILLAGE (aka Steve Hillfish here) paid his dues through various bands that have become recognized over the decades as highly influential musical entities in their own right. Starting his first band Uriel while still in high school, HILLAGE wasted no time developing serious guitar sophistication that forged new sounds in both Khan and then the psychedelic space wandering as heard on Gong's space trilogy but after Daevid Allen jumped ship from Gong in early 1975, Hillage was uncomfortable with the band's trajectory led by Pierre Moerlen but stuck it out to finish the album 'Shamal' before making his own exit and after the success of his debut solo album FISH RISING which was recorded and released while still a member of Gong, the move proved to be the right one and in the process HILLAGE was able to nurture his musical contributions and develop them into extremely complex knotty creatures of sound.

While still in Gong, FISH RISING was recorded with many members of that band. Bassist Mike Howlett, drummer Pierre Moerlen, keyboardist Time Blake and saxophonist Didier Malherbe all makes appearances which gives HILLAGE's debut the most Gong sounding qualities of all his solo releases. The album also hosted other legends from the progressive rock universe including Dave Stewart (Uriel, Egg, Khan, Hatfield & The North, National Health) on organ and piano and Lindsay Cooper (Henry Cow) on bassoon. Also joining his team was his girlfriend Miquette Giraudy on various percussion instruments. She and HILLAGE would later collaborate in the 80s electronic dance music band System 7 which in many ways found its seeds sown with the electronic experiments found on tracks like 'The Salmon Song.' Additionally various members provide a wealth of extra sounds with instruments like the marimba, darbuka, tamboura, Indian flute and glockenspiel.

FISH RISING is one of STEVE HILLAGE's crowning achievements not only as a composer but also as a guitarist and most surprisingly of all an awesomely talented lead vocalist. The album with the help of magical pixies and Hare Krishna chanting flawlessly fused the progressive rock sounds of Khan with the psychedelic space rock of Gong but not only that incorporated the jazz-rock technical wizardry of the Canterbury Scene complete with HILLAGE's phenomenal finger melting guitar playing techniques. Add a dash of avant-prog and ethereal electronica and it's really no mystery as to why the FISH was RISING and seemingly unstoppable. The original album consisted of only 5 tracks, three of which were sprawling epic suites whereas the shorter 'Fish' and 'Meditation Of The Snake' served as unique intermissions that condensed the duality of the album. 'Fish' was a Daevid Allen inspired bout of silliness whereas 'Meditation' displayed the seriousness of the album and its focus on the more Zen inspired vibes of cosmic bliss and psychedelic splendor. The album was even a surprise hit as it peaked at No. 33 on the British album charts.

The complexity on FISH RISING is off the charts and has been referred to as the psychedelic version of the Mahavishnu Orchestra with its far reaching space rock soundscapes that take voyages through ethereal sonic fog zones as well as technically infused jazzified progressive rock workouts where highly demanding time signature workouts perform unthinkable gymnastics with bizarrely timed overlays of echo effects and an infinite supply of varying textures, timbres and harmonies. The near 17-minute 'Solar Musick Suite' with its four distinct sub-sections was actually a leftover from STEVE's Khan days but never found the proper home. Although it was performed live with Khan as well as with Gong, the track was gussied up in its best progressive space rock attire and displayed a new kind of Canterbury magic unlike anything that had ever been recorded before. The effortlessly glides through a galaxy of mood shifts, tempo changes and textural stylistic shifts that range from the happy-go-lucky freewheeling passages to the blistering pyroclastic flows of angularity.

The short snippet 'Fish' is right out of the Daevid Allen playbook whereas 'Meditation Of The Snake' provides the ultimate testament to the power of the echo effect. 'The Salmon Song' which is just shy of the 9-minute mark provides some of the album's most veritable prog technical workouts but also bedazzles the listener with plenty of Canterbury infused whimsy that delves into the realms of ridiculousness! The beefy sinew of the guitar riffs accompanied by the jittery oscillating pulsations of the electronic wizardry provides a glimpse into HILLAGE's future electronic music endeavors. The near 15-minute 'Aftaglid' finds a pendulum shift back towards the serious side of the album and with some hand chimes seems to usher in some sort of meditative practice that drifts through seven different segments. While starting out as an easily digested hypnotic echoey guitar riff, the track soon shoots off into the stratosphere of proggy complexities and offers the most ambitious musical workouts on the entire album. The senses are soon bombarded with a series of polyrhythmic overload, Eastern mediative ritualistic sensuality and mind-bending psychedelic escapism. The track also provides some of the most demanding guitar workouts ranging from acoustic guitar bliss to sizzling electric freakouts.

In many ways FISH RISING was STEVE HILLAGE's creative peak as nothing he did after even came close to the sheer magnanimous nature that exudes from every scale, gill and fin of this ichthyological ascension into some of the most adventurous musical workouts of the 70s classic prog years. In many ways a culmination of everything that led up to FISH RISING, this album also allowed the guest musicians involved to flesh out the most appropriate interpretations of the compositions at hand which proved HILLAGE's interest was in serving the greater purpose of the musical content rather than his own guitarist sensibilities. While the guitar is clearly an important ingredient of the album, the main focus is to ride the cosmic waves and worship the gods of psychedelia while tending to the chores of conjuring up the most knotted complexities that the prog universe demanded in the mid-70s timeline. The results culminated in one of my personal favorite albums of all time. The complexities of FISH RISING require many attentive listening experience before the magic really sets in. Sure, the riffs are easily comprehended on a single listen but this is one of those multi-dimensional albums that keeps giving time after time and ultimately FISH RISING comes off as the ultimate conclusion to the 'Radio Gnome Trilogy' albums of Gong that immediately preceded. One of those few albums i can put on replay for eternity.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |


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