Steve Hillage is an English guitarist who has done most of his work with experimental music, particularly relating to the guitar. He’s been in and around dozens of bands throughout his long career, and has released a decent number of solo records as well.
This album is his solo work being performed. This being a live album, one can expect to hear some lengthy jam sessions in what would otherwise be shorter studio songs. Between that fact and Hillage’s out-of-left-field output, songs become quite long, but do tend to be interesting.
“It’s All Too Much” stays on and around concert G with very little deviation, if any. Every once in awhile a spacey synthesizer sound is thrown in for good measure. The guitar solo is very overdriven, and the added wah effect is tastefully done. “AftaGlid” is an instrumental jam centered on that same space-like synth sound, and guitar with copious amounts of echo, chorus, and wah to complement the overdriven tone. “Solar Musick Suite Part 1” has everything you’ll hear in the rest of the album; some progressive parts with odd note groupings, everything mentioned already, plus the slower, more contemplative parts where Hillage sings and the band sounds more like a backup for a singer-songwriter rather than a cohesive rock band. I think Hillage likes to play around on top of one note in the bassline; he does it in “It’s All Too Much” and again at the end in this song. “The Salmon Song” opens in a kind of bluesy-progressive sort of way, before settling down to a more traditional rock groove. “These Uncharted Lands” is my favorite track, but I can’t quite put a finger on why. “Unzipping The Zype” sounds like a tribute to David Gilmour at first, aside from that synth sound Hillage can’t resist using in every song. Then it becomes more groovy and funky, thanks to a great bass solo.
The Steve Hillage Band Live isn’t without fault, though. The music here is marmite music; you either love it or hate it. I’m more on the love it side, because I like musical experimentation and weird-but-interesting stuff. That’s what Hillage does very well. The songs are also very much on the longer side, so if your attention span is that of a normal human, then you’ll get bored. At times I did, but then there would be something to slightly pull me back, and then I was hooked again. So, it isn’t perfect (what album is?) but I say this album is by and large a cool one.
Key Tracks: Solar Music Suite Part 1, These Uncharted Lands, Unzipping The Zype
July 25, 2012