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System 7 - Derrick May

The only direct link from the '90s ambient house community to its space rocking forebear of the '70s, Steve Hillage played in the prog rock band Gong, released several solo albums during the late '70s and early '80s on Virgin, and later returned to music in the '90s to form System 7, more of a recording collective than an actual band. Hillage was recruited back to the music scene by Dr. Alex Paterson of the Orb, who spun Hillage's Rainbow Dome Musick at London's Heaven one night while Hillage was there himself. The two became friends, and Paterson encouraged him to begin recording ambient house -- with Hillage's guitar explorations just as prominent in the mix as on his solo work. With collaborator Miquette Giraudy (an old friend from his days in Gong), Hillage released the single "Sunburst" in late 1990, and followed with a self-titled album in September 1991, produced with the help of a varied cast of techno heavyweights (including Paterson and Derrick May). Soon after, System 7 was signed to an American contract by Astralwerks, though the existence of a similarly named band caused Hillage to name his outfit 777. The System 7 album was finally given a U.S. release in 1992 as 777.

During 1992, Hillage and Giraudy released the British-only singles "Freedom Fighters" and "Altitude" -- as System 7, since the restriction applied only in America -- and prepared their second album. Given the confusing title of 777, it was nonetheless a completely different work than the earlier LP, and featured additional production by Dr. Alex Paterson. Though it wasn't given an American release, System 7's next project, a techno album and an ambient one released on the same day in late 1994, was issued in America as a two-disc set (again as 777). Signed to Britain's Butterfly label by producer Youth (who had engineered several sessions), the group worked with Derrick May and Carl Craig plus Paterson to record 1996's Power of Seven. Though the album was not released in America, later that year the industrial label Cleopatra signed System 7 -- finally allowed to use their real name in the U.S. as well -- and released the remix LP System Express in early 1997. System 7 returned later in 1997 with Golden Section. 2002's Seventh Wave and Mysterious Traveller followed, as well as 2006's Encantado and Live Transmissions. ~ John Bush, Rovi
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