STEVE HILLAGE Rainbow Dome Musick (Virgin)
This album’s almost too easy a target for mockery. The cover photographs are of “polarized silica-quartz crystal”, it’s “dedicated to the universal spirit of New Age synthesis” and was recorded at somewhere called Om for the 1979 Mind Body Spirit festival at the Olympia, London.
Yet, what’s astonishing about “Rainbow Dome Musick”, and a point that took much sustained listening before it became apparent, is that if you larded it with beats and dialogue samples you’d pretty much have “The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld”. In fact, it was the championing of “Rainbow Dome Musick” by ambient house acts such as The Orb that inspired Hillage to form his own dance act System 7.
The album consists of two side-long tracks, vast 20-minute-plus tracts of gently oscillating emptiness, populated substantially by only keyboards, guitars and Tibetan bells. It could be a gruelling listen, but when the synths work themselves up into a kind of sequenced kaleidoscopic pattern towards the close of “Garden Of Paradise” as “Echoes”-style guitars caw and wheel above, or when “Four Ever Rainbow” washes up like a distant cousin of Fripp & Eno’s “Evening Star”, it’s actually quite pretty.
“Rainbow Dome Music” is an album that’s in no particular hurry to make its point, making it perhaps more of a rarity now than when it was first released nearly 30 years ago.