Best of Year 2019
RIP Steve Hiett, who passed away at the end of last month, sadly before he was able to see the first worldwide release of his much revered 1983 solo album. Slow moving, often-peaceful and relaxed, Hiett's work displays some of the traits we might consider 'ambient', but perhaps only in the same way you might also consider Durutti Column to be - this is not kankyo ongaku. And that only tells half the story. Hiett was a renowned classic rock fan, particularly so of the Beach Boys, and as such, there's a clear nod to traditional songwriting structure and feel that belies its 80s origins - this is very much a child of the 70s. Down on the Road By The Beach must have sounded wildly out of place in '83, likely explaining why it was originally only released in Japan. The production is smoothered, and when he sing it's almost like Hiett is playing from beneath the waves, and when he doesn't you've the sense of some rock and roll radio broadcast from an unknown island. If the philosophical precept of ambient is to sit amongst the environment, then perhaps Down on the Road By The Beach is escapist. It takes you somewhere else.