Bill Nelson

Bill Nelson

What Now, What Next

Atom Shop

Discipline Global Mobile

Let’s see, I’ve got 43 Bill Nelson albums. That’s just his work since 1980, and I’m aware of about 9 more I’m still missing. And these are all albums, not a bunch of special import singles with an extra track. That’s the output of four busy artists, with the ideas of about eight good ones. This guy is so prolific he makes Prince look like Peter Gabriel.

What Now, What Next is a 2-cd set of his work from 1980 through 1990, and boasts six unreleased songs from three albums I’ve never even heard of. Also included is a color booklet of some of his artwork, which he does for most of his albums as well as paintings.

Let’s see, anthemic British ballads, ambient sonic-scapes, new wave, piano minimalism, industrial operatic, power pop, spoken word dance-bop, musique concret’, instrumental psychic-wallpaper soundtracks, easy-groovin’ lovey toetappers, not-so-ambient soundscapes, the list of genre-breeding style-crossing is almost as massive as the body of work itself.

New-agers may have heard his contributions to Channel Light Vessel, or experimentalists might have heard some of his famous E-bow work with Yellow Magic Orchestra.

Even though What Now, What Next doesn’t include any of his signature work (for which he was best known in the ’80s among his cult following), this is still an interestingly varied compilation full of surprises, especially to the unfamiliar listener.

In the ’90s, Bill began releasing catalogues of demos (4-CD sets at a time) of songs he completed in a maximum of two hours from the start — “ideas frozen in time at the moment of conception.” These include a trilogy based on his recollections of being a British boy influenced by ’50s era Americana memorabilia, which is completed with Atom Shop. The trilogy compacts most of his past vast diversity into an amazing conglomeration of songs and sonics. Songs about ladies, lust, rockets, angels, devils, all shiny like memories from the future. And wherever he’s headed, Bill will rock, shuffle, groove, bop, or float you there.

“I’ve seen the luminous stuff of dreams, I know what’s going on. Awake to all eternity with the jazziest ghosts in town, spinning dizzy on the dial.” Sure, Bill is out there, but he is our galactic space-guitar cowboy riding the muse out between the musical planets. Watch out, he’s got synthesizers and drum machines, and he’s not afraid to use them. He’s got jazzy blues guitar riffs that flow from a classic British vein, along with a low Bowie voice that slithers and resonates. Not to mention an arsenal of found vocal samples, and apparently an unlimited lifetime connection to the eternally flowing source of all songs. I guess it’s the same things he’s always had, he just can’t seem to stop finding new things to do with them.

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