Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5
Steve Hillage was a phenomenal space guitarist (not that he's dead or anything; it's just that now he's more of an electronic guru) best known for being the axeman during Gong's prime, although he shines in lesser known projects such as Khan. In terms of sheer skill and interstellar trippiness, Hillage blows the far more famous space guitarist David Gilmour out of the water. For this particular niche of guitar music, Hillage really is the best there is.
This album was recorded while Hillage was still affiliated with Gong. The basic sound of this album seems to be an extension of Gong's You. In fact, he dragged along Gong drummer Pierre Moerlin, saxophonist Didier Malherbe, and bassist Mike Howlett along for the ride. This isn't to say that there aren't some major differences. While You drifts into extended grooves and synthesized ether, there is far more instrumental interplay and soloing here. I'd say that Fish Rising is much more of a tradtitional prog album than anything Gong ever did. For me, this is a tiny strike against Fish Rising as I'm not much of proghead, but it could very well be a positive for you. Also, a key component of earlier Gong is the strange humor of Daevid Allen and Gilli Smith. They are nowhere to be found here, and while Hillage has a quirky charm of his own, it doesn't come out as strongly in an atmosphere so reminiscent of Gong.
More annoying is the production. Hillage takes the production reigns himself, and while he would eventually become a fine producer, the sound here gets a little muddy. After hearing Moerlin's drumming with a crisp sound on Gong albums, it's a little disappointing to hear him smeared along the canvas. Keep in mind that this disc is very much a proper remaster, and is far from unlistenable, I just feel that this music would be best heard with a little more definition.
Songwise, the album is bookended by some prog epics. "Solar Musick Suite" and "Aftaglid" both clock in around 15 minutes and include some very extended instrumental sections. I prefer "Solar Music Suite" as it flows more and has a much less lumbering main riff than "Aftaglid." In the end though, both tracks tax my attention span a little bit. Sandwiched between is the short "Fish," the synth swirling "Meditation Of The Snake," and "The Salmon Song." "Meditation Of The Snake" recalls the more esoteric synth side of Gong's You, and that makes it winner in my book. "The Salmon Song" is a far more 'concise' prog rocker at eight and a half minutes, but it has the benefit of including a killer guitar riff.
I feel like Fish Rising was conceived more as a 'side project' to the mothership band of Gong. Hillage would sound much more committed on his second solo album after leaving Gong. Hillage did better soaring than grounded with a heavy prog sound. Just as a side note, I always get an image of midgets dancing around a tiny model of Stonehenge 5:44 into bonus track "Pentagrammaspin."
Steve Hillage - 1975 - Fish Rising