For several decades, Bill Nelson has been producing exotic pop music and sensuous instrumental excursions at an alarming rate. The man's creative juices appear as limitless and inexhaustible as his musical talent.
His latest release displays this relentless dedication with overwhelmingly entertaining results.
BILL NELSON: Noise Candy (limited edition 6CD set on ToneSwoon Records, distributed by Lenin Imports)
The first notable aspect of this release is the unspeakably impressive packaging. The six disks come in a sturdy fold-out case that measures 5x10. Glossy, full-color printing decorates every square inch. Open the box and the glorious interior is revealed: the CDs set into trays, with an elaborate 52 page booklet (again: full-color, on glossy heavy stock paper) that contains all the lyrics and numerous pictures and pieces of friendly art.
Although compiled from a vast archive of unreleased tracks composed and performed throughout the Nineties, there is nothing secondary about this music. These songs exhibit the man's talents in prime form.
CD 1: Old Man Future Blows the Blues (69 minutes)
Each disk offers a slightly different slant of Nelson's versatile music. This one's classification is congenial pop tunes with a touch of light-hearted blues.
While the sonic range is varied, guitar cheerfully dominates this music. Nelson is a worldclass virtuoso when it comes to coercing miracles from this instrument. Effects and treatments are too innumerable to describe, producing ecstasy in never-ending waves of inspiring pinnacles. Percussion tends to be generally artificial, but quite snappy and unstale, providing thrilling rhythms that rock and sway with verve and energy. Basslines hide in the mix, fundamentally subliminal but contributing solid foundations. Keyboards and electronics sweep through the tunes like glistening honey, candy-coating riffs with their heavenly resonance.
Nelson's vocals are sultry yet masculine, deep-voiced and melodic in the extreme. His lyrics are truly inspired, generating catchy and intriguing phrases with exuberant fever.
Also appearing are sampled voice snippets from old radio and TV shows, children's records, and other, more esoteric sources. These utterances are brief, and generally used to clever effect.
It is no secret that Nelson has a steady eye on the future, with a touch of classic space age sensibilities rooted in Golden Age visuals...such as gleaming crystal cities, aerial railways, jet towns, streamlined rockets with flaring fins. The man's spiritual sense also shows through, with frequent references to eternal love, deities of all varieties, and a resolute sense of optimism.
CD 2: Stargazing with Ranger Bill (55 minutes)
This disk features tuneage with more of a cowboy flavor (not to be confused with Country & Western music).
Here, the guitar often adopts a prairie twang, conjuring campfire gatherings under a big yellow moon. Tall tales are swapped, and everyone chews chaw with gusto. But fear not, there's still a strong presence of Nelson's signature E-bow guitar sound, bending notes in mid-play via electromagnetic manipulation.
This mixture of modern and wild west produces a curious form of nostalgia, as the lyrics combine high-grass plains with outer space, valiant steeds with hot-rod racers. The melodies carry abundant cowboy sentiments as the steel pedal slide guitars spiral into a miasma of churning interstellar clouds.
CD 3: Sunflower Dairy Product (71 minutes)
This disk examines existentialism with a peppermint twist, pop music that bridges the gap between candy bars and the Milky Way galaxy.
While Nelson retains his prior mastery of the instruments, the music on this disk resonates with a pronounced smoothness, more sultry in a masculine manner, more in tune with feminine ears. Lavish guitars swing into play, tickling smiles from the audience as the riffs plunge into realms that sparkle with electronic effects. The percussion is snappy, belting out tasty rhythms that propel the tuneage into congenial astral territory. Nelson's crooning waxes nostalgic about the future while recommending glucose as an emotional solution. Glistening embellishment pours from the almost-imperceptible crevices in the mix, spilling like honey over the dearly heartfelt melodies.
CD 4: King Frankenstein (71 minutes)
This disk explores a darker side of Nelson's creative capacity, injecting grittier riffs and transforming the silken tunes into dramatic snapshots.
Vivacious pyrotechnics overwhelm the guitar-playing with dazzling intensity. The songs evoke ascendant sensibilities, driving the listener to heights where the air is rarefied and donning one's space helmet might be advised. Monsters become humanized, and accident is unmasked as the true adversary plaguing mankind.
In all fairness, not all the pieces on this disk are dark; in fact, even those who display a darkness are hardly ominous. Tracks like "The Invisible Venus of New York City" and "Sunny Bungalows" provide optimistic vistas of sound amidst the harsher pieces. The tension becomes a warning sign of obstacles to overcome instead of unavoidable dire consequences. Fantasy blends with surrealism as Nelson redefines life in terms that are guaranteed to bring a smile to everyone's lips. Eastern theology collides with Western philosophy, producing an enthusiastic nirvana of left-of-center insights.
CD 5: Console (70 minutes)
This disk consists mostly of instrumental tracks, exhibiting Nelson's talent of splicing together samples to produce highly infectious melodies.
Piano emerges here, not to dominate but to enhance the winding percussion and cosmic guitar. The tunes are littered with sampled phrases that effectively imbue the whole with a sense of intimacy, as if the ancient voices are bestowing the audience with invaluable advice.
The overall velocity of the music steps back, adopting a more languid delivery, dreamy and stately. Crescendos are liable to loop back into sedate passages, leading the listener into a profuse labyrinth of undulating harmonies. A sense of fancy is prominent, as if every ear belonged to children who are still mesmerized by the simple mysteries of life. Much of the experience conjures an afternoon spent investigating an old attic where boxes of exotic old phonograph records provide a wealth of innocent amusement.
CD 6: Playtime (72 minutes)
This disk is almost a compendium, a mixture of all previous elements, peppered with optimism and laced with some particularly ecstatic guitar performances. The keynote here is: funtime devoted wholly to entertainment. Philosophy and wisdom are still present, but they are hidden in uptempo pop tunes that appeal to audiences of all ages.
The pace resumes its frivolous stature, with peppy rhythms and intricate guitar licks and fascinating vocal qualities. The future merges with the now; romance faces off with contentment; enigmas are bamboozled; and you are invited to ride the Astral Tramways of England.
No one escapes this CD set without a generous dose of uplifting sentiments and entertaining melodies.
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