The eighties revival. When did it start? By now, it seems it has been running longer than a decade and still, the possibilities to expand on that era’s synth and sequence heavy music are still expanding. Once the butt of many jokes, the synth is now revered as an expansive instrument that can be as cheesy or as majestic as you want it. But is this revival the result of a re-evaluation of a long gone decade or a defense mechanism against the passage of time?
Cue Billy Nelson, who takes some of the lo fi acoustics/electronic mix from his other band (Whistle Peak) and his brand new EP, Water sports. Bubbling synths, desperate voices and baritone guitars swirl in the six song EP, something to listen while sauntering through low lit bars and empty stadiums.
Desperate longing followed by negotiation fill the opening track, ‘We could be friends’. The themes of existential crisis simmer from this track until the solemn end, ‘A hidden beach’, an intimate goodbye that feels more about acceptance of conditions than catharsis.
Where Billy Nelson shines through is when there’s no angularity to his music. Take ‘Feels like an Arab Spring’, with it’s synthetic drum beat and playful swing beats. That initial happy phase is left in the dust, turning into an upbeat lamentation. Nelson‘s vocals pan back and forth, stirring desperation on top of droning accordions and the re-emergence of the drum beat, now less optimistic, with an injection of realism via a guitar that rears its head.
Still, music in Water Sports can go in ethereal places. ‘Still life with cormorant’ slides into celesta-and-mandolin territory, taking a cue from the classy music of 60s intrigue films, painting a mysterious veil over Nelson‘s vocals.
Whistle Peak can be intimate, nesh, whimpering in a hallway that once was blooming with life. Billy Nelson takes two amyls, puts a Starter Jacket, places neon lights along said hallway and through synth swells and drum sequences, flashes through darker feelings that we want to believe will stay in the dark forever. Midlife crisis begone!
Words: Sam J. Valdés López.