Wednesday, July 24, 2013

TIMR 19 : bill nelson boxes

Looking at my music collection and thinking about long term relationships, an important one is Bill Nelson. And it's a strange one. In my musical world there are three main types of relationships: there is the central trio of Eno/Fripp/Bowie. There are old friends who I often turn to - Jethro Tull, ELP, Steve Harley, Incredible String Band, Beatles, Joy Division/New Order, and many more - people who were important at various stages and who I followed (and still do) and have a warm affection for; but I'll probably not write many TIMRs about them. 
Contents of trial by intimacy

Then there are artists who fall between - people who I have known for a while and followed though their development: Bill Nelson is one of these, David Sylvian and John Foxx are probably the next closest ones, others migh include Paul Weller. People who I have travelled with through various groups and guises, and who offer a range of different music. (Some of my more recent relationships are starting to get long term!)

So to Bill Nelson - the dating of my memories is hazy!

I am pretty sure that my first exposure was Do you dream in colour - a minor hit out here. In a fabulous sale (i have very fond memories of sales in various shops, flipping through the bins for known and unknown quatities; queuing before the shop opened to get the one off gems) I bought Live! in the air age (a double album of full album plus 12" ep) which was my broader introduction to BeBopDeluxe [I later bought the double album of singles and rarities (The best and the rest) and then the double cd - and while I enjoy them they are later exposures and not as formative {similarly I have heard Ultravox retrospectively, after getting into John Foxx}]

Around the same time I got Quit dreaming and get on the beam and Bill Nelson's Red Noise. I can't say which I got first, though I am leaning towards Quit dreaming. It came with a free album of ambient instrumentals Sounding the ritual echo - and in a trend which becomes increasingly prevalent in the Nelson discography, this is from demo tapes recorded in his home studio.

Whichever, it was Quit dreaming and Sounding which turned me right into a Bill Nelson fan. The rock/pop album is full of hooks and great songs, while the ambient is mellow attractive and enchanting. I became a seeker of the arcane knowledge. 

I think my next purchase was the four album set Trial by Intimacy, bringing together four albums of the ambient, with a booklet of arcane photos and text, cards and knowledge of the Bill Nelson fan club. I can't fathom how I found out about it in those pre-internet days, and while I am pretty sure I ordered it through the post, it could have been through an import record shop: either way it was a big investment - but worth it.

Many albums followed
The love that whirls - possibly my favourite; though the range of The two fold aspect of everything (singles, hits, ambience) brings it up there.
Then there are many more - Chimera, Getting the Holy Ghost Across, scores for Das Kabinett and Beauty and the beast, Savage gestures, the Orchestra Arcana albums, Crimsworth, Chance encounters in the garden of light (double album plus 7" single of ambience, another high on the favorite list). The music across that list covers a whole range of styles.

His sound is generally recognisable - the guitar, the voice and mood. But the combination of song based albums and ambient across the years is very attractive. His output ranges from Crimsworth (a very minimal ambience) through guitar based ambience such as Chance encounters in the garden of light, beautiful pop like The love that whirls to the early sampling of the two Orchestra Arcana releases.

Another box set came out - the four cds of Demonstrations of affection - which at Peril they broke up so while I didn't get the t-shirt or box, I got 2 of the four disks. Then My secret studio - four albums of demo songs with some small card; the Confessions of a hyper dreamer (my secret studio volume 2). To be honest, by that time in the mid-nineties I was becoming financially Nelson-fatigued. But music still emerged. There was another multidisk set that was tempting (Noise candy), and then the Nelson club got even more active creating even more. There were some ordinary releases as well. If you look at the discography on wikipedia almost half of the three columns are post 2000.

I have maintained a light contact with the expanded oeuvre, but it is that period to just before 2000 which really resonate for me. As with other artists it came at a time when I was being exposed to more new music through the reviewing. 

Looking at my iTunes library I have about 39 albums from Bill Nelson, BeBop (only a couple) and Channel Light Vessel. In many moods I'll whack on a bit of Bill and always enjoy it. And there are the boxes & their contents, which are permanent TIMR reminders. 

two later collections


sroden said...

ahhh... i was a big bill nelson fan way way back in the day... haven't heard him in ages... there were so many folks from that time period that i've let go of... might have to pick some of it back up!
steve said...

I tried to publish a comment, but I lost the entire thing...let it suffice to say, I was and still am a huge fan of bill's music, and of bill nelson the musician. I love his work with the energy bow, and I loved it when he put aside the normal lead guitar, and instead, played ebow almost exclusively for a number of years - on both active songs and on ambient pieces, too - and, often, in live sessions with his brother Ian on sax. I am afraid - I haven't counted - that I have more than 30 bill nelson recordings; I have all the be-bop, all the solo stuff up until about the last 30 (which I want, but can't afford) and other live stuff, too...I really learned so much from listening to and watching bill play, and to me, he is the undisputed master of the energy bow. He is also underrated as a normal lead guitarist, he is extremely capable as a lead guitarist and sometimes people don't really realise just what this man can do when he puts his mind to it! Rock, ambient, blues, indie, and music so unusual that you can't even give it a genre - dada guitare anyone? In live improvs with Ian, where Bill would trade ebow lines with Ian's sax - well, those were the days.

Just listen to "the love that whirls" or any single or b side from that period, the early 1980s, and bill was playing his heart out on the ebow - "the october man" is just one of many standout tracks where he really shines on energy bow - the undisputed master.

I learned a lot from him, and his playing definitely influenced, and still influences, my playing - especially my ebow playing - because when bill stopped playing with a plectrum, and switched to ebow - so did I; so for a few years, I pretty much only played ebow, very rarely guitar - and those were fantastic years...and I brought the ebow to my 90s ambient looping band, and it defines that band (bindlestiff) in some ways - if I hear looped keyboards and drum machine, with looped and live ebow solos - that was THE SOUND.

anyway - you cannot go wrong with the music of bill nelson; I wish more folk would listen to him - the master. "he and sleep were brothers..."