System 7

The Fire Album

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While progressive house as a semigenre never really got off the ground despite all the press attention given to it -- arguably because it never really established a deep fanbase among the actual raver population -- some of what was created still has a certain appeal, and this album qualifies handily in that regard. Working with a variety of collaborators, including the Drum Club, Laurent Garnier, Youth, and most notably techno legend Derrick May, Hillage and Giraudy combine various contemporary trends here -- the early '90s ambient boom, squelching 808 bass sounds, and disco-salsa -- with Hillage's fluid, haunting guitar work to create a nicely state-of-the-art way to spend some time. To begin with, Hillage frankly deserves at least some credit just for his ability to openly embrace newer music without ever sounding like a dilettante, while most of his progressive peers from the '70s acted as if neither disco nor punk had ever happened, much less everything after that. That said, the promising title Fire rarely gets you up and moving on your feet; for all the solid beats throughout, it's a politer dance album, more meditative than punchy -- one reason why history hasn't remembered it so well. At its best, though, it's still good stuff: The collaborations with May, "Mysterious Traveller," and "Overview," are unsurprisingly the best on the album; while neither May's nor Hillage's stated mutual worship of George Clinton is apparent, the beats and grooves are among the best here. Other moments of note are "Alpha Wave (Gliss Mix)," with Hillage's guitar tracing a haunting, mysterious path deep in the mix over an increasingly stronger percussion line, and the gently surging "Gliding on Duo-Tone Curves" and "Jupiter!"

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