Wednesday, November 22, 2017

My Intricate Image: A Quick Look At The New Bill Nelson Soundtracks Box On Cherry Red Records

The fine folks at Cherry Red Records have been recently reissuing a bunch of crucial Bill Nelson recordings without a great deal of fanfare. Given the waves of difficulty that sometimes have faced fans trying to find the ex-Be-Bop Deluxe main-man's stuff in the past, the recent tide of fresh reissues is something to be welcomed, if not shouted about.

Adding to this impressive string of reissues, Cherry Red are putting out a 3-CD box this Friday called Dreamy Screens: Soundtracks From The Echo Observatory, a set that collects 3 instrumental recordings from Bill Nelson. Disc 1 starts with 1981's Sounding The Ritual Echo (Atmospheres For Dreaming), a largely New Wave-y set of short tunes sans vocals originally released as a free bonus disc with the same year's Quit Dreaming and Get On The Beam. Cuts like "My Ritual Echo" and "Annunciation" recall a bit classic Bill Nelson songs from the same era, just without any singing on them, while the spry "My Intricate Image" uses what sounds like a bit of backwards tape to carry the sleight tune forward. Elsewhere, the languid "Vanishing Parades" sounds like something from a film score, a sentiment which segues us nicely into a look at the next 2 discs in Dreamy Screens: Soundtracks From The Echo Observatory.

On Disc 2, we find the score Bill Nelson composed to accompany the classic 1920 film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Largely eerie pieces, a few here -- like the evocative "Cesare The Somnambulist" -- manage to hit at a nice beauty that suggests the possibility that even someone who was not familiar with the film could find something to enjoy here. The material on Disc 3 of Dreamy Screens sees Nelson move on to a film that really didn't need a score: Jean Cocteau's classic Beauty and the Beast (1946). The film famously featured music composed by Georges Auric so, truly, the existing score didn't need to be improved upon. Still, Nelson is to be commended for the effort as his score here is a fairly rich one. That Nelson completed this using a minimum of keyboards and samples is something to marvel at still, 30+ years after the album's original release. And, even more than the other discs in this set, the soundtrack here to Beauty and the Beast tells a story through sonic means. It succeeds in a remarkable way, offering a listener unfamiliar with the film a sort of sense of what Cocteau accomplished visually. I can say that, having heard this album before I ever saw the Cocteau film, I felt like I had a working knowledge of what to expect when I finally did see the 1946 masterpiece.

Dreamy Screens: Soundtracks From The Echo Observatory is out on Friday from Cherry Red Records. It is essential for anyone who wants to hear Bill Nelson at work on actual soundtracks to films, and not simply soundtracks, like his famous instrumental records, to just the dream-movies of his mind as an artist.