25 July 2010

Bill Nelson: Trial By Intimacy -- Pavilions Of The Heart And Soul

Pavilions of the Heart and Soul is the third album in Bill Belson's luscious box set Trial By Intimacy. With its photo-montage cover, recalling the avian preoccupations of Max Ernst, and elliptical song titles, such as "Meshes of the Afternoon", a nod in the direction of Maya Deren's spellbinding film, the album offers itself as kind of alchemical mystery. Everything here seems to have meaning, but only for those who are already initiated into its occult practices, or are willing to follow the trail of clues toward those artists, writers, and filmmakers who might better help us to understand this arcane world.

Nelson was not alone in prompting his listeners toward a greater appreciation of twentieth-century modern art from Europe, the Vorticists, Futurists, Dadaists, and Surrealists who explored the world of chance processes and unconscious motivations. John Foxx used the title of Ernst's "Europe After the Rain" for one of his finest solo singles. David Sylvian paid homage to Jean Cocteau in "The Blood of the Poet." And Richard Jobson, formerly of The Skids, gave up his pursuit of pop stardom to read from the works of Maguerite Duras. Eighties music is often caricatured as the height of the banal and superficial, but much of it not only encouraged but expected a level of cultural literacy that is rare today.

One can certainly enjoy Pavilions of Heart and Soul without having taken a course in avant garde film. The instrumental music here is among the most thoughtful and fully developed that Nelson composed during this period, perhaps most especially the spirited "Four Pieces for Imaginary Strings," that encompass tracks 11 through 22. But what makes this music distinctive is that it invites you to know more, to read more, to listen more. There is a kind of syllabus embedded in this album, and, indeed, in all the albums in this box set, one that seems half forgotten today, but which was an almost necessary part of being a serious music fan in this period. Google Max Ernst. Borrow a copy of Breton's The Surrealist Manifesto. Go to YouTube and watch Meshes in the Afternoon. It's all out there, waiting to be discovered. Again.

-- Crash The Driver


Bill Nelson: Pavilions Of The Heart And Soul
A01 Gift Of The August Tide
A02 Loving Tongues
A03 Blue Nude
A04 In The Realm Of Bells
A05 Your Nebulous Smile
A06 The Glance Of A Glittering Stranger
A07 Another Kiss For Your Slender Neck
A08 The Warmth Of Women's Eyes
A09 Seduction (Ritual With Roses)
A10 Dreamed Embraces
B01 Four Pieces For Imaginary Strings: Herself With Her Shadow
B02 Four Pieces With Imaginary Strings: The Exquisite Corpse
B03 Four Pieces With Imaginary Strings: Ardent Hands
B04 Four Pieces With Imaginary Strings: Her Laughing Torso
B05 Migrating Angels
B06 Les Amoureux
B07 Meshes Of The Afternoon
B08 Mountains Of The Heart
B09 Willow Silk
B10 Tender Encounters (States Of Grace)
B11 Melancholia
B12 The Eternal Female

Trial By Intimacy (The Book Splendours)
4xLP: Cocteau Records UK [JEAN 2] 1984

Pavilions Of The Heart And Soul
LP: Cocteau Records UK [JC 8] 1984
CD: Cocteau Records UK [JCCD 8] 1989
CD: Enigma Records US [7 73378-2] 1989


  1. excellent...been really enjoying these BN albums!

  2. Just discovered the vast world of Bill Nelson- thanks for the chance to listen : )