System 7 Phoenix Review

Released 2008.  

BBC Review

Occasional sparks fly as Hillage's prodigious digits connect to the fretboard.

Sid Smith 2008

Techno hippy outfit, System 7's latest album illustrates a story that encompasses Hinotori – a bird of fire that speaks in a magical telepathic voice and is seen at the outer edges of the universe by future space travellers – and other characters populating manga artist Tezuka Osamu's sci-fi samurai worlds. These include Wolf-Head, Space Patrolman Masato Eternity and a cute-looking robot called Chihiro 61298 who appears to be blessed with a pair of pneumatic looking rabbit ears. Like, wow man…

Lest he be accused of jumping on a bandwagon, even a cursory listen to almost any part of Steve Hillage's career reveals a long-term fascination with things that make diddly-diddly noises and riffs that go round in circles. With his old outfit Gong (sampled here to appropriately comic effect on Chihiro 61298) the music was suffused with cartoon cosmology, astral 'oohs' and 'aahs', and although the pot-head pixies were replaced by a New Age manifesto when he went stratospherically solo in the late 70s, it pretty much amounted to the same hedonistic space trip.

Having hung up his Strat in exchange for a sequencer, Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy left behind the space rock days of yore to soar away with born-again techno-beats back in 1990 under the System 7 moniker. Hillage's credibility with the trance scene stems from 1979’s Rainbow Dome Musick, whose floating tones seemed custom-made to have a bunch of repetitive beats and uber-low basslines foisted upon it by The Orb's Alex Paterson; the man who played his augmented version of the album to the chill out crowd.

If you're a fan of ambient techno and manga then this album will probably float your boat. Should you not be blessed with such enthusiasms then it represents a curiously joyless state wherein the tyranny of the cyclical beats are quickly established and rarely (if ever) overthrown. Ornamented by a series of by-the-book synth sounds and anonymous guest appearances (including his old boss from Gong, Daevid Allen), it's frankly lacking ambition. Occasional sparks fly as Hillage's prodigious digits connect to the fretboard (Makimura – Space Pilot and Wolf-Head locks horns with some kick-ass beats) but that's about as interesting as things get.

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