IN A Borders town named after a seventh-century monk, a man whose everyday garb is that of a thirteenth-century Scottish warrior has been drawing upon Robert Burns's 200-year-old poetry in order to make new music via globe-shrinking communications technology that is more in keeping with the next millennium. The town is St Boswell's. The

man in the medieval helmet giving Tam O' Shanter a right good funking on a new album called Compression is, of course, Jesse Rae.

Released by the German Echo Beach label, Compression had its genesis last December as a live, trans-world experiment Rae conducted utilising British Telecom's Integrated Services Digital Network. By linking 34 countries from South Africa to New Zealand, Australia to Hong Kong, Rae sought to see how far an album which boasted CD sound-quality could travel round the world without physically existing as a CD that anyone needed to enter a shop to buy.

What is ISDN? I surely divine nothing of its workings, speaking personally. I simply trust Rae when he tells me that in his evangelical care, ISDN can unite via phone any number of performers in different studios around the world for a live multi-track recording session.

What else do I know about ISDN? Unlike the Internet, it's a private broadcast system. And, according to Rae, it's good news for Scottish musos.

``I'm based in Scotland, a country with no recognised music industry, and yet I can get my music on to any radio station worldwide and thus be heard by publishers without needing to go to London or to New York. Or, if there's one particular drum sound you want from a room in Atlantic Studios in New York, say, you can access it via ISDN.

``You can create multi-track CD-quality recordings without there being a studio . . .

if you're a touring musician

in an ISDN hotel, you can dial a different continent and

do overdubs.

``From my back garden in St Boswell's I've mixed and mastered a recording in South Africa via ISDN. They were playing live there; I was singing live here. I sent the mix to them via ISDN. They immediately relayed it to CD-making machine, and then walked one-and-a-half minutes to a radio station in Johannesburg, who broadcast it . . . the whole process took an hour. It opens huge doors for everyone.''

As a couple of tracks on Compression reveal, Rae literally opened doors and wandered out into Glasgow's streets, singing and recording all the while, during live shows last year in McChuills and the 13th Note. What

was it that that tartan-

tinged movie Braveheart said? Oh aye . . . Freedom!

Coincidentally, Braveheart's Los Angeles-based producers were among the first to hear the fruits of Rae's ISDN-driven creativity when he was able to send them songs he'd written for the film's soundtrack. Unfortunately for him, they exercised their freedom of choice and didn't use it.

Thankfully, Scottish rugby's overseers are happy with Rae's tunes, his enthusiasm, and his mastery of modern technology. For Compression, the world's first ISDN album, has a secondary purpose: to publicise the existence of Satellite Radio Rugby, a 24-hour ISDN facility run from Rae's home. Rugby-lovers worldwide can access it for Rae's music as well as news and views from SRU director of rugby, Jim Telfer, who also crops up on Compression.

``It's my way of promoting rugby in Scotland, and encouraging young people into the game. I first got together with Jim Telfer in 1991 during Scotland's staging of the World Cup. I'd been disappointed at the lack of support via the media for the Scottish team, and came up with Jacob's

Pillow for them.

``I want rugby as our national game, not football. I don't like football. I see rugby players as our last warriors, plus it's more of a team sport than football where the emphasis always seems to be on individual stars. Rugby takes 15 men to make it work.

``There's a new team here in the Borders, the Border Reivers, and I'll be appearing live before, during, and after their games at Hawick and Melrose on October 16 and 26. It's not a Jesse Rae show, more me adding sound and atmosphere to encourage young people along. I've got 400 sound-effects and music tracks stored on 20 CDs. There's the sound of a boot hitting a ball to accompany a dropped-goal attempt, for example, and an `Oh-oh' if it doesn't go over the bar.''

Compression certainly demonstrates that Jesse Rae has the respect of top musos around the globe. Conjoined by ISDN in studios from New York to London, Miami to Johannesburg by way of St Boswell's, the album features players of the calibre of Doug Wimbish, Skip McDonald, Keith LeBlanc, and Bernie Worrell.

It was the last-named, whose career has encompassed everyone from George Clinton to Talking Heads, who inadvertently set Rae's studio career in motion.

``As a young musician, I'd had to leave the Borders for London. An ad in Melody Maker led me to cross the Atlantic to join a band in Cleveland, and in a hotel in Boston I literally bumped into this bizarrely-dressed guy, Bernie, who was wearing a huge top hat and a coat with a frizzy collar - my kind of bloke!

``I dropped a pile of tapes I was carrying. We began talking and realised we had a mutual friend in Sly Stone's girlfriend, so Bernie invited me to see him play in Parliament in an all-black club called the Sugar Shack . . . I was the only white lad there for this amazing on-the-one funk.''

After long spells working in various top US studios, Rae returned hamewards in the mid-eighties. As Compression shows, however, the world has become even more of his oyster.

David Belcher