Bill Nelson – The Futurist Looks Back

 

The recording career of Bill Nelson can be traced to 1968 at Holyground studios in Yorkshire, England. Since that time Bill has put forth well over one hundred releases – from a solo artist to Be Bop Deluxe, then Red Noise and back to a solo act, as well as countless collaborations with artists like Harold Budd and the group Channel Light Vessel. Often releasing things on his own imprints and using his own home studio equipment, Bill Nelson has been continuing a tradition that started with Les Paul. Bill’s massive back catalogue ranges from folk-style prog and psychedelia to glam, art rock, new wave. Later works include touches of plunderphonics, synth pop, and ambient work that has much in common with modern vaporwave. 

Dynamos and Tremolos (available on CD and digital download at: https://www.soundonsound.com/shop/bill-nelson/dynamos-and-tremolos) is his latest offering and a rare moment of Bill revisiting his past. Many artists prefer the focus be on their current work, whether because they don’t like to dwell on their past accomplishments or because they are reaching toward that next great creation. This album is “an instrumental album that blends 1980s electro-synth sounds with contemporary guitar stylings” and features twangy, western guitar lines that tip their cap to Duane Eddy. Fiery solos with beautiful harmonies mix with humming sounds of space car engines. Other tracks place the ultra-clean tone of Chet Atkins up against electronic drums. 

Ever-present is the aforementioned Les Paul wizardry, featuring his unique dreamy runs across the fretboard. Bill paints a metallic world using an arsenal of sound worthy of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop – whirring machines, marching robots, metal toys, cigar shaped rocket ships, and vintage radios all enter the mind. Other moments convey a light airy feel – a touch of whimsy, perhaps a theme song to a some mecha robot TV show. Elsewhere, synth bass conjures up hot springs, upbeat tempos suggesting art deco cityscapes populated by cars with big fins and tail lights that look like boosters. 

On Dynamos and Tremolos, jet packs are no longer a dream and old pulp comics play out through the speakers. In 2018 this is an elder statesman who plays with the enthusiasm of a teenager hearing rock and roll for the first time. Whether this is your first foray into Bill’s world or you have dual citizenship, this album does not disappoint. 

– Jeff Brown

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