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Arts & Entertainment

Peter Stenshoel's album of the week: Fish Rising by Steve Hillage

Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

As unlikely a guitar hero as you'd ever hope to find, Steve Hillage has a career that spans styles as nimbly as his fingers span his fretboard. Unlikely, because his stock-in-trade is optimism. Along with his mate, Miquette Giraudy, Hillage mines memes (viral ideas) with fluidic motion, much like his "glissando" guitar licks can easily riff for hours on end.

Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy are currently the techno-trance-dance outfit, System 7, but their beginnings place them firmly in the Canterbury scene. They were also both in the group Gong, the fun and funny bunch started by Daevid Allen. Together Steve and Miquette recorded a number of influential albums, working with luminaries like Don Cherry and Pink Floyd's Nick Mason. Steve went on to produce several bands' albums, (Simple Minds, Robyn Hitchcock, et. al.) sit in with punk bands, back up Sting, and manage festivals.

I like Steve's first solo album, Fish Rising, for its non-apologetic embrace of philosophy (which word, literally, means "love of wisdom"). 

Going far deeper than the simplistic "All You Need is Love" of the Lennon/McCartney oeuvre, Solar Musick Suite (I Love Its Holy Mystery) freely twirls technology, myth, alchemical text, Qabalah, puns, cybernetics, evolution, and the prophetic structure of John of Patmos' Book of Revelation, to spin a positive outlook on our collective future.

To a symbol geek like me, this is red meat.

We live in a time when Christians are characterized as anti-evolution and Evolutionists anti-Christian. I love how Hillage takes a fish, the secret symbol of the early Christians, which is also now used as a symbol for Darwinism (albeit with legs), and syncretizes evolution and spiritual yearning into a coherent whole. Hillage exhorts us to use our heart and our head. This is not "hippy dippy" as one critic described it, but globe-smart; a place where we all can meet once we "put aside the fears and doubts that hold this old world down/And open up our hidden store of Light, within."

Perhaps survival demands it.