For years, Steve Hillage was known for his passionate, bewitching guitar music. Then came the techno/ambient age; often very dreamy, often very drum-based, occasionally too technically accomplished to be emotionally gripping.
Phoenix is the perfect blend of Steve and Miquette Giraudy's music and is System 7's most rewarding and interesting album for years. It is absolutely packed with little treasures for fans of Hillage's old music and features an awesome range of guest artists -- including Daevid Allen, for Gong fans. (I admit it: I scampered round the room a bit when I heard the 'I am / we are cray-zee' refrain).
That's not to say that the music on Phoenix is old fashioned; it's nothing of the sort. The guitar sounds enhance the synth basis, and there's a comfortable mix of bouncy beat-drive up tempo numbers to mix with the wistful, ethereal, more ambient numbers. None of the tracks grab me quite like Bon Humeur (from the first S7 disc) or Palm Trees (from green, and even earlier), but Phoenix offers a compelling mix of melody and spine-tingling moments. You'll hear the odd snatch of familiar solo or riff and wonder if it's a sample of an old moment or a perfect fusion of then and now. Come to think of it, 'Phoenix' is an entirely appropriate title for this cd (although it refers not to any resurgence of System7 but ties in with the manga graphic novels of Tezuka Osamu which provides the theme to the album).
There aren't any tracks which move me to tears, but there's plenty which encourage wildly inappropriate grooving around the office. And there are one or two slower paced, peaceful moments which will have you gazing out of the window while time slips away. It's going to be on the playlist for a good long while. Plus, there's an MPEG file of the original video for the title track, Hinotori, to watch on the 'puter, although my disc is firmly stuck in the boom box at the mo'.
Finally, if you are new to System7 then don't be put off by my nostalgic ramblings. This is a very easy to access, immediately enjoyable album. It's the perfect introduction to the sound of System7 -- a great place to hear a representative selection of the group's different styles of music.