Steve Hillage

Rainbow Dome Musick is, in a way, a real oddity because it doesn't fit with anything else that was happening in the UK music at the time...it's a trippy classic at any rate, and can claim to be a formative influence on the psychedelic chillout music that emerged from the early electronic dance music scene a decade later.

artist:
Steve Hillage

country of origin:
UK

style(s):
Ambient, psychedelia, environmental

decades active:
70's - 10's

essential solo releases:

  • Rainbow Dome Musick (1979, Caroline/Virgin) 

Reviewed by Mike G

Many years after this one-off ambient classic from 1979, hippie rocker Steve Hillage - originally a guitarist for 70's UK-French spacerock band Gong - staged a surprising comeback via dance music in the 90's and beyond. He collaborated with The Orb and also formed his own psychedelic techno dance and ambient outfit System 7 with long-time musical partner Miquette Giraudy.

The comeback was sparked by a chance meeting in the chillout space of a London nightclub in the late 1980's that has now entered rave legend. The Orb's Dr Alex Paterson was spinning sounds from an obscure Hillage album and was entirely unaware of Hillage's presence until he approached Paterson in the DJ booth. And that album was Rainbow Dome Musick (1979).

Rainbow Dome Musick is the fruits of a one-off ambient detour taken in the late 70's after he left Gong. Co-produced with Giraudy and containing two colourful side-long meditations in a quasi new age style, it's superior electro-acoustic ambience with a flowing, expansive quality and wave upon wave of celestial electronic sounds. Featured instruments include Hillage's distinctive "gliss" electric guitar, ARP synth, Tibetan bells and Moog synth. The music was originally commissioned for use in the "Rainbow Dome" at a 1979 Mind-Body-Spirit Festival in London.

Rainbow Dome Musick is, in a way, a real oddity because it doesn't fit with anything else that was happening in the UK music at the time. It's very different from the more austere ambient sounds of UK art rock as embodied by Brian Eno. The new age overtones are much closer to the then-young new age music scene that was stirring on America's west coast. Presumably Hillage got wind of this scene, either independently or via the organisers of the festival. At any rate, the album is a trippy classic and can claim to be a formative influence on the psychedelic chillout music that emerged from the early electronic dance music scene in England, Europe and America a decade later.

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