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Bill Nelson’s Orchestra Arcana - Optimism

  by Keith How

published: 24 / 12 / 2015

Bill Nelson’s Orchestra Arcana - Optimism
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Keith How investigates a new edition of Bill Nelson’s 1988 album 'Optimism', which has been released in a remastered and expanded version

If there is any doubt that Bill Nelson is a genius, then full proof can be found on this new edition of 'Optimism'. First released in 1988 on his own Cocteau Discs label, Nelson, free from the restraints of a recording contract, was able to find a vehicle to express his incredibly fertile imagination. Holed up in his home studio The Echo Observatory, Nelson played all the instruments on the record, amazingly without the aid of the digital technology we have available today, Nelson used found voices and dialogue from radio, T.V. and old movies to bring the whole concept together. The whole album is incredibly inventive. Kicking off with the unadulterated groove of 'Exactly How You Wanted It', 'Optimism' takes you on an incredible journey that is hypnotic and transfixing. 'Welcome Home Mr Kane', which is a tribute to Orson Welles, has a minimal repetitive funk to it, while 'Our Lady of Apparitions' has a lovely ambient drift that carries you away. A cursory glance at the music of 1988 (R.E.M. 'Green', Sonic Youth 'Daydream Nation', Cocteau Twins 'Blue Bell Knoll') shows that the competition was hot but for pure inventiveness, but Bill Nelson was just light years ahead of his time. 'Profiles, Hearts and Stars' is a mindbending trip that weaves its way through time and space. There are plenty of hints here of Nelson’s state of mind during this period. Buddhist chants and liturgies interweave with a mysterious space groove. It is truly fascinating stuff. Listening to 'Optimism' I imagine Bill Nelson in his Yorkshire landscape, perhaps under a full moon, constructing these pieces like an alchemist or an abstract painter carefully cutting and pasting by hand, patiently recording and overdubbing instruments and sound bites until, in the early morning, he retires to bed having created yet another masterpiece. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a slab of forgotten history. 'Optimism' has much to reveal for the discerning ear.

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Bill Nelson’s Orchestra Arcana - Optimism

Bill Nelson’s Orchestra Arcana - Optimism

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