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album - 19 December 1986

Orchestra Arcana

Iconography - Reissue Cover
Iconography page 7
Iconography page 5
Iconography page 10
Iconography - Original Cover
Currently unavailable


01)  Christ Via Wires

02)  Clock Conscious

03)  I Wonder

04)  Eastern Electric

05)  Search And Listen

06)  News From Nowhere

07)  One Man's Fetish Is Another Man's Faith

08)  Right, Then Left

09)  Iconography

10)  The Gods Speak

11)  Life Class

12)  Altar Natives

13)  Sex, Psyche, Etcetera


Extra tracks added to the 2013 CD edition
14)  Several Famous Orchestras
15)  Who He Is


Orchestra Arcana was a Bill Nelson pseudonym, used to avoid contractual issues with CBS/Portrait, to whom Nelson was then signed.
Iconography was the first album released under the Orchestra Arcana name, and was distinctive for the Nelson's imaginative use of 'found voices' taken from various radio, TV and film sources. These were weaved into the fabric of the music, in a technique first used on the albums Chamber of Dreams and The Summer of God's Piano contained in the Trial By Intimacy box set (recorded between 1981 and 1984). Issued on LP and cassette, Iconography represented the first new Bill Nelson album on the Cocteau imprint since Trial By Intimacy nearly two years previous.


This title is currently out of print, but may see a digital download release at some point.


In the 1960 film of H.G. Well's 'The Time Machine', Rod Taylor says: "Gentlemen, what I'm asking you to do now, is witness a demonstration of the possibility of movement within the fourth dimension."

Robert Hughes: "And so a chasm opened between the true language and what the young knew to be reality...Like a mutilated saint...Half machine, half angel...The spirit of our time he called it..."




"It was the first of the albums I released under the 'Orchestra Arcana' moniker. It contains instrumental recordings, many using 'found voices', and was recorded in my then home studio 'The Echo Observatory'. It's predominantly synth/keyboards based and created with old-school analogue technology. 

It's a must-have for any fan of my instrumental music."

"The samples on "Clock Conscious" came from 'A Matter of Life and Death', a must-see film for anyone who hasn't had the opportunity to enjoy it. The film is part of a famous body of work by film director Michael Powell and screenwriter Emeric Pressburger who worked together using the name 'The Archers'. They were not only responsible for 'A Matter of Life and Death' but also 'The Red Shoes', 'The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp', 'Black Narcissus' and 'I Know Where I'm Going'.  All recognised as masterpieces of the cinema.  It's remarkable stuff and essential viewing."



"No vocals from Our Man Bill, but tons of "found vocals". Cuts from movies, news broadcasts, etc. Great stuff. This, and the follow-up Optimism are absolute musts."

"One Man's Fetish Is Another Man's Faith": "is an interesting mix of Bill's styles. It starts off like something from Summer of God's Piano or Pavilions of the Heart & Soul, with the found-vocals that are the hallmark of most all of the Iconography album.
Just after 2.10 into the song – almost halfway through this piece of music – things change from the ethereal & introspective into an outright anthem. Said anthem can hold its own against "For Stuart", even though it's lacking the dynamic lead guitar. An amazing, keyboard-driven theme for sure!"


" my absolute favourite BN album. "One Man's Fetish" is a superb track, but then again, the whole album is chocca full of gems. There are so many amazing tracks and beautiful details that it's really difficult to pick one track or aspect of it.  From the jaunty synthlines on "Life Class", to the amazing guitar work on "Altar Natives", or the vocal snippets and samples, or the production... bliss!"

"For the record, "Altar Natives" is my favourite ever Bill Nelson instrumental track - the perfect mix of his synth, sampling, rhythm and guitar work."


"It has that international dance classic: "Sex, Psyche, Etcetera!" I might have to pull out my copy just to hear "Eastern Electric"."


"I can't wait to get the re-issued Orchestra Arcana stuff! Bill is a master at using "found voices" I think."


"I have been very pleasantly surprised at how much I have enjoyed the music from this period of Bill's career. On paper, the idea of it should not work for me, but it very much does. It is arguably within these recordings that the true extent of Bill's talent as a composer began to surface. Arguably the first inkling that there was some level of genius within."


"A cool lo-fi track I really like is "Right, Then Left"...A great montage of 'found voices' and swirls of sound with hidden layers that peel off with repeated listening...there's loads from this time I love...I think I enjoy them even more now than years ago in many ways...'little miracles of sound and song' they are."

"If you don't have it I urge you to acquire this reissue....essential!!!"


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