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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Bill Nelson

Dreamy Screens (Soundtracks from the Echo Observatory)

Review by Gary Hill

This box set houses three CDs from Bill Nelson. Two of the albums were recorded as soundtracks. Much of this music was recorded on reasonably primitive equipment. As someone who did a lot of similar recording on four-track cassette machines and even more primitive stuff, I can really appreciate that aspect. There is a certain magic to using limited to technology to create the recording you envision (and living with the limitations of that recording) that young musicians recording to digital recording equipment can't grasp. I will say that doing something like this as a track by track review is difficult. Much of the music is similar. It's mostly intended as soundtrack music, too. Besides that there are just so many tracks here, and some of them are very short. Not only that, but this isn't the kind of music that's intended to analyzed deeply, but rather to help tell a story. Still, all our CD reviews are track by track, so it is tackled. Let's suffice it to say that there is a lot of intriguing music here in a great clamshell box and three album cover reproduction sleeves.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
CD One: Sounding the Ritual Echo (Atmospheres for Dreaming)

The keyboard sounds that open this move it forward in some intriguing ways. It is measured and pretty. It actually does feel like a musical form of annunciation.

Sounding the Ritual Echo
More atmospheric and trippy, this is also cool stuff. This is just a minute and a half long.
There are echoey, sounds at the heart of this. Much of it feels backwards tracked. This has a textural, alien quality to it.
Near East
This does have an Asian vibe to it. The multiple layers of keyboards bring more melody to this.
Emak Bakia
There is an almost pounding, hammering percussive element to this. The cut dances around and works really well.
My Intricate Image
Some backwards sounds and other freaky elements are on display here. This is an odd, but cool musical tapestry.
Endless Orchids
Intricate and melodic, this is has a bit of a dreamy texture to it.
The Heat in the Room
The percussive element here literally feels like a hammer hitting an anvil. There are bits of sound over the top. Overall this is a short, atmospheric piece.
Another Willingly Opened Window

Backwards tracked sounds, an electronic beat and some intriguing melodic elements all merge here.

Vanishing Parades
I dig the electronic percussive element on this piece. The track is built around more atmospheric sound with some interesting melodies. Vangelis is clearly a valid comparison on this.
Glass Fish (For the Final Aquarium)
Another with a lot of Asian textures, there are also sounds here that do call to mind an aquarium bubbler.
Cubical Domes
Trippy sounds along with lines of melody and a hammering kind of percussive track make up the musical concept here.
Ashes of Roses
There is a cool electronic beat element here along with lines of musical melody. This isn't a big change, but it is intriguing.
The Shadow Garden
Backwards tracked waves of atmosphere are on hand here. This is a classy cut that really creates a mood. It does feel like soundtrack music.
Waves of trippy keyboard sounds make up this number.
CD Two: Das Kabinet
The Asylum

This is unsettling and frightening. It's intended to be. It's alien and quite strange.

While this truly is a waltz, there is a twisted, odd sound to it that serves well to pull it into the realm of strangeness.
The Fairground
There is a twisted carnival vibe to this cut. It's strange, but also oddly playful.
Doctor Caligari
This is another that's very creepy. There are weird vocal elements, but you wouldn't call it singing, more like ghostly whispering. Wispy layers of sound are built all over this. It's a cool cut.
Cesare the Somnambulist
More trippy, freaky sound is on the menu here.
There is sort of an Asian vibe to this cut. It has some bits of melody amongst all kinds of trippy sounds.
The Funeral
There is a sound here like a repetitive ringing bell. Other elements are heard in the mix, too, bringing more textural melody to it.
The Somnambulist and the Children
Less than a minute long, this is mostly special effects.
Caligari Disciplines Cesare
Trippy, echoey stuff that's quite dark is on hand here. It really feels like something that would have been at home in an old science fiction movie.
Caligari Feeds Cesare
This seems more like the music to a thriller. There is a sense of danger and intensity here.
Caligari Opens the Cabinet
This is a very short bit of science fiction sound effect created on a synthesizer. It ends with something menacing.
Jane Discovers Cesare
Rising in with a crescendo, this becomes textural and quite unsettling.
The Attempted Murder of Jane
This is freaky stuff. It's alien and dark in nature.
The Dream Dance of Jane and the Somnambulist
More melodic and mainstream, this is a nice respite.
Escape Over the Rooftops
Opening almost like technical metal turned symphonic and electronic, this works out to other freaky keyboard elements from there. This gets noisy as a busy percussive element is driving it. It all drops back mid-track and more textural keyboard sounds move it forward.
The Unmasking
Starting with more of a percussive section, this works out from there to a more keyboard oriented one.
The Shot
Weird trippy keyboards make up the musical concept here.
The Cabinet Closes
This starts with keyboard textures, but works out to more percussive, rather noisy stuff from there.
CD Three: La Belle Ella Bete

Pretty keyboard elements rise up to bring this into being. There is an otherworldly beauty to this in the early parts. It goes through some weird changes, though, with blasts of fast paced percussion and other sonic oddities before settling back into the melodic zone.

The Family
There are weird nature elements along with more trippy atmospherics and bits of melody. It shifts toward a fast paced bit of music that has a bit of classical element to it later.
Sisters and Sedan Chairs
More atmospheric and spacey, there are some sound effects along with bits of understated melody here.
In the Forest of Storms
The opening sound here feels like a jackhammer. That ends and melodic keyboard textures enter to take control. Around the half-way mark it shifts to weird science fiction sounds. There are odd bits of a processed voice punched in here and there. The cut is so bizarre, but also so compelling.
The Castle
This feels pretty and majestic.
The Gates
This a very short piece. It has a weird keyboard sound that gives way to a pounding a bit like a ticking clock.
The Corridor
Eleven seconds in length, this is made up of a chiming bell mostly.
The Great Hall
Weird electronic textures drive this piece. It's dark and menacing. It definitely feels like horror movie music. The weird voice like thing adds to that vibe, bringing an otherworldly element.
Dreams (The Merchant Sleeps)
There are great layers of keyboard sound almost like a processional that make up this piece.
Fear (The Merchant Wakes)
There is a sound like a beating heart over which strange keyboard textures are heard.
The Rose and the Beast
This short track starts with the sound of a storm and then shifts to a keyboard chord.
Magnificent (The White Horse)
A horse is heard at the start neighing. Later in the track the galloping drives a lot of it. Keyboard textures dance around as the song continues. A jackhammer type sound takes over at the end.
Beauty Enters the Castle
This really does bring beauty in some sounds that are part electronic and part classical. It's very short.
The Door

Weird effects driven keyboards are the idea on this short track.

The Mirror
Only twenty seconds long, this keyboard thing does feel reflective.
Candelabra and Gargoyles
Weird keyboard bits are interspersed with all kind of oddities on this thirty second piece.
Beauty and the Beast
As this comes in it feels a bit ominous. It grows out into some of the most purely musical keyboard work here.
Transition No. 1
Weird sound effects eventually takes it to a chiming clock to end.
Transition No. 2
Melodic keyboard elements are the concept here.
The Hunt

This comes in percussive and works its way forward from there. There is a sound that calls to mind a wild animal. It all shifts to weird keyboards at the end, but that animal is still there.

The Gift
This is just a ten-second bit of keyboard weirdness.
The Garden
The sounds of nature start this. Keyboard melodies rise up in one of the more traditionally musical pieces here.
Transition No. 3
More melodic keyboard elements are the idea here.
Transition No. 4
Trippier and weirder, that animal from earlier returns here.
The Tragedy
This does feel melancholy and tragic. There is definitely a sadness to it.
Transition No. 5
This is a short bit of melodic keyboard music.
The Enchanted Glove
While the musical element here is both melodic and atmospheric, there is something a bit like a crack of thunder mid-track.
Tears As Diamonds (The Gift Reverses)
This is just an eleven second bit of flourish.
The Beast in Solitude
A weird keyboard sound brings this into being. It works out from there with melodic waves of sound carrying it.
The Return of the Magnificent
Less than thirty seconds long, this is just keyboard textures with the sound of the horse from earlier.
Transition No. 6 (The Journey)
A noisy, trippy keyboard element starts this. It's another cut that has weird, quick changing parts, though.
The Pavilion of Diana

Sound effects styled keyboards are the idea here.

Transformation No.1

There are some intriguing moments on this piece.

Transformation No. 2
A sense of magic and mystery seems to permeate this cut.
The Final Curtain
Melodic keys and a chiming bell at the end make up this closing piece.
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