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The Space-Age Pop Music of Bill Nelson

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BILL NELSON: Modern Moods for Mighty Atoms (CD on Blue Shining Fountain Records)

This CD from 2010 features 65 minutes of delightful space-age pop music.

Dazzling guitar pyrotechnics conspire with electronics and rhythms to craft tunes of enticing delight.

NelsonÕs guitar virtuosity shines here, with a plethora of nimble-fingered notes bent and caressed and spun and lovingly presented for your enjoyment. At times he relies on clever tricks to bestow the chords with inventive resonance, but his skill with untainted notes is unsurpassed, as he delivers riffs of glittering beauty, rich with puissance and seething with appealing hooks.

A host of electronics provide sprightly embellishment, generating lavish pulsations and dreamy backdrops. Slippery keyboards sweep through the tunes with sparkling vigor. Twinkling keys infuse the melodies with exquisite depth.

Dexterous percussion lends ample locomotion for the tunes. Rhythms unfurl into animated tempos that slither through the luscious mix.

While most of the tracks are instrumental, NelsonÕs sultry vocals can be found in several songs, expounding the virtues of the future and space-age wonders. A selection of sampled vocal snippets decorate a few tracks.

These compositions exude a pronounced optimism and valor. But the musicÕs strongest glamour lies in the manÕs inexhaustible supply of fresh tunes. Each song shines with unique melodics, as he constantly produces robust riffs, each resplendent with the hardy luster of enchantment.

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BILL NELSON: Picture Post (CD on Sonoluxe)

This release from 2010 offers 59 minutes of soundtrack music.

This music was composed for the American Public Broadcasting Service television documentary film, American Stamps.

A distinctly more pacific outing for Nelson, comprising lilting keyboards and understated percussion. A certain amount of quasi-orchestral strains are threaded in the mix, too, resulting in a very classical edge to the tuneage.

The keyboards are soft and designed to instill a mood of gentility with their twinkling patterns. While generally the pace is languid, there are occasions in which the keys dance with a jubilant animation. At times a touch of grandeur is present, as traditional piano passages evoke a regal temperament. Other times, a xylophonic flair is used.

Electronic effects are few and incidental, serving to enhance the rest of the flow with their peripheral contributions.

The percussion is right out of a jazz cafˇ, smooth and slippery, relaxed rhythms of a cerebral nature.

Oh, thereÕs still guitars, twanging and snarling (albeit in a sophisticated fashion) and shimmering with nobility, generating loving chords that sashay on clouds unburdened by mortal cares. Toward the end of the album, the guitars adopt a Hawaiian twang in one song, transporting the tuneage to a surfer venue.

While crafted to be a film soundtrack, these compositions also exhibit a carefree attitude in their whimsy, as fanciful melodies waft forth and establish a mood of comfortable bliss. A jazzy flair is present in some of the tracks, undoubtedly to match stamps bearing the portraits of jazz masters. All in all, a satisfying album.

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BILL NELSON: Fantasmatron (CD on Sonoluxe)

This CD from 2010 features 68 minutes of modern pop music.

For all the beauty of NelsonÕs instrumental albums, there are some listeners who yearn for more of his lyrical compositions. Well, this release is one of those vocal-heavy albums.

NelsonÕs romantic voice has a mystical quality, dreamy and evocative. Besides his whimsical lyrical material, he is also fond of peppering songs with snippets sampled from radio broadcasts and antique spoken word records.

As usual, the music relies grandly on his guitar virtuosity. He is a master at coaxing unnaturally vibrating chords from the instrument, and this outing has no deficiency of such glorious utterances. There are even several instances in which he produces quite startling new resonance from the strings.

A bevy of electronics contribute vital riffs to the songs, sneaky interjections that swing into play from the musicÕs peripheral edges, and often burst forth in the mix in full prominence.

Keyboards provide valuable passages of lilting grandeur. Twinkling keys of an electric nature skitter throughout the tunes, fleshing out the intricate melodies. There are numerous occasions in which a rich piano creates a tasty nobility.

These compositions shine with wonder and allure. Each tune offers a fresh melody, delightfully catchy and playful, crafted to instill wonder and awe. While generally considered as a pop musician, NelsonÕs stylings walk a fine line between pop and contemporary electronics. His music has a strong modern flair, yet at the same time it evokes a nostalgic feeling, harkening to those golden ages of flying cars and robot friends that we were led to expect from the future.

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BILL NELSON: Signals from the Realms of Light (CD on Sonoluxe)

This release from 2011 offers 69 minutes of dreamy music.

Here we have a completely instrumental album, wherein lavish guitar pyrotechnics conspire with versatile electronics and luxurious rhythms to produce tuneage of glorious character.

The guitarwork shines with superb luster and power. Delicate strumming is mixed with blazing riffs of a stellar scope, each contributing loving embellishment to the melodies. Sustains are carefully achieved, then teased into inventive oscillations, resulting in some wondrous textural passages. Layered onto these textures are some pensive chords of intense elegance which help to establish a spacey venue for the generally dreamy tuneage.

A degree of electronics is employed, sneakily immersed in the mix and squeezed in-between other chords, enhancing things with their subtle presence.

Keyboards generate celestial flows that nicely magnify the musicÕs astral allure; while tender piano notes ground the stratospheric ascension with an earthy temperament.

Percussion is evident, but sparsely utilized, and when in evidence these rhythmics establish a plodding meter instead of any locomotion. Bass tones often function in place of tempos, their pulsating throbs immersed in the mix and rendering their influence quite subliminal.

While there are no vocals, Nelson often uses snippets sampled from old radio broadcasts and antique instructional records, infrequently lacing the tunes with such samples to give definition to the musicÕs mood.

These compositions are typically beautiful, as NelsonÕs tunes usually are. Normally, his songs tend to be brief and succinct. A difference here is that, peppered in with some short pieces, a few tracks are of uncommon length for him. They clock in at: 3, 22, 5, 8, 13, 13, and 4 minutes. These long tracks enable Nelson to explore far-ranging variations on themes, which he does with inspired skill.

Highly recommended.

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BILL NELSON: Songs of the Blossom Tree Optimists (CD on Blue Shining Fountain Records)

This CD from 2011 features 56 minutes of lilting music.

Back to vocal music with this album, and add a prevalent symphonic touch.

The guitars adopt a very pastoral disposition here, generating a lush twang with delicate chords. Mild strumming often merges with harpesque caresses, producing a beatific luster to the riffs.

Keyboards play a vital role, contributing lavish melodics with tender character. Their dreamy resonance seeps through the mix like ambrosial honey, golden and delicious.

The rhythms are snappy but never overwhelming the tunes with their bouncy tempos.

NelsonÕs vocals are typically lilting; his voice a tender presence as he croons lyrical delineation in praise of sweet human perceptions.

ThereÕs even a frequent accordion presence, lending the tuneage a lovely romantic flair.

Symphonic embellishments abound (synthetically created), bestowing a gloriously regal flavor to the tuneage. Violins cavort with airborne jubilation, while cello undertones establish a somber counterbalance.

These compositions flourish with a pleasant mien, conveying a gentle mood akin to waking in a garden of wondrously fragrant scope. ThereÕs a distinctly relaxed temperament going on here, as the songs convey optimism with courteous refinement.

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BILL NELSON: Model Village (CD on Sonoluxe)

This release from 2011 offers 49 minutes of idyllic music.

An instrumental release.

Surprisingly, there is minimal guitarwork utilized on this album.

The electronics are subtle, often sneaking into the mix.

Keyboards are most prominent here, from stately piano to slippery keys of all types, from heavenly chords to agile sweeps. A sense of whimsy marks many of the keyboard passages, drawing the listener into the albumÕs idyllic disposition. The melodies are carried along by these keys in a gentle fashion.

An amount of symphonic touches are present, synthetically generated, and lending the music a regal posture. Manifesting as string sections and layers of woodwinds and cello undercurrents and masterful bassoons and occasional harp, these orchestral strains frequently bestow a lively air to the tunes.

Suitably, environmental sounds are laced into the flow. Babbling brooks and chirping birds and fields replete with nocturnal crickets serve to enhance the musicÕs pastoral character.

These compositions are sprightly and pleasant, conjuring the mood of a rustic country village and the pastoral environs surrounding such a settlement. The melodies are delightful and supple, an assortment of pleasing tunes that simultaneously lull and invigorate by immersing the listener into the balmy countryside.

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