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Sounding The Ritual Echo

Bill Nelson

album - 8 May 1981

Sounding The Ritual Echo - Cover
Sounding the Ritual Echo reissue cover


01)  Annunciation

02)  The Ritual Echo

03)  Sleep

04)  Near East

05)  Emak Bakia

06)  My Intricate Image

07)  Endless Orchids

08)  The Heat In The Room

09)  Another Willingly Opened Window

10)  Vanishing Parades

11)  Glass Fish (For The Final Aquarium)

12)  Cubical Domes

13)  Ashes Of Roses

14)  The Shadow Garden

15)  Opium


Sounding the Ritual Echo is an instrumental album recorded at Nelson's home studio, The Echo Observatory. The album was initially released as a limited edition free album available with both vinyl and cassette copies of Quit Dreaming and Get on the Beam. It was packaged in its own album sleeve, which slipped inside the Quit Dreaming cover, or simply as side two of the cassette edition.

Once Nelson had left Mercury and transferred more attention towards Cocteau for releasing his own albums, Sounding the Ritual Echo became the first album to be re-issued on Cocteau in July 1985 (on vinyl only). By then Nelson had released the four-album box set Trial By Intimacy, and the new edition of Sounding the Ritual Echo was redesigned (in terms of artwork) to fit inside the box set as a companion piece. In fact, when Trial By Intimacy was conceived, Sounding the Ritual Echo was originally one of the four albums to be included in the box, but then a new recording, The Summer of God's Piano, took its place.



The UK and US CD issues from 1989 are both long out of print.

Sounding the Ritual Echo was reissued by Esoteric/Cocteau Discs in December 2017 as part of a 3-CD set of Bill's early soundtrack work, entitled Dreamy Screens.



Currently out of print and a potential future Bandcamp digital download reissue.


"Sounding the Ritual Echo was recorded in the privacy of my own home on broken or faulty tape machines and speakers, each track possessing its own technological deformity. For this I offer no apology as the music owes its existence to a very personal and selfish obsession. As a direct result, some pieces will require a little patience."

"At the time, I saw 'Ritual Echo' as being more indicative of my inner, deeper self (in 'artistic' terms), whilst Quit Dreaming was perhaps a little more superficial, closer to my commercially minded work. Perhaps I was still chasing fame and fortune with one hand but rejecting it with the other. Here and now, in the 21st Century, the production quality of Ritual seems, (to my ears), simplistic and dated, but its approach and content feels contemporary and connected to my current creativity."

"Many of those old four track or eight track recordings were done as sketches or demos, ('though mainly the song-based material), as I felt frustrated by the technical limitations of the recording equipment I had at that time. I always added the qualification to the sleeve notes that these were, in a sense, little more than rough blueprints for work that would be refined if I ever had the opportunity to record them to a much higher standard in a 'proper' studio. However, these technical limitations sometimes worked to the music's advantage, particularly when it came to recording minimalist instrumental pieces.

"The enforced simplicity and primitive recording technology suited the stripped back form of the pieces that went into albums such as Sounding the Ritual Echo, Chamber of Dreams, The Summer of God's Piano, Pavilions of the Heart and Soul, Catalogue of Obsessions, Simplex and the two 'Orchestra Arcana' albums.

"Whilst I understand that some people might have thought of these recordings as 'experimental' or 'avant garde', I never really approached them in that way...for me, they seemed accessible, direct, and far from difficult...
All I wanted to do was make music which transcended limitations of genre and instead came across as beautiful and timeless. To achieve that goal, now more than ever, is the driving force behind my music."

"My interests have always been fairly broad so, for me, it feels natural to enjoy a wide range of musical expression without worrying too much about genre limitations or fashionable fads. But if there was a key to my musical identity, I think it could be found in the instrumental work, rather than the vocal things. It's from there that the essence of my creativity flows. It's always been that way, even with Be Bop Deluxe.

As John Peel once said, "You get the feeling that Bill just wants to get the singing bit out of the way as soon as possible so that he can tear into another guitar solo". (Or words to that effect)."

"Here's something you may not know regarding the above Ritual Echo photograph:
I took the photo in a field on the edge of the Yorkshire village of West Haddlesey, where I lived at that time. The two large mirrors, (one reflecting a tree behind my position with the camera and the other reflecting the sky), were originally made for a Be Bop Deluxe tour. They were designed to reflect, to the audience, Andy Clarke's hands playing his keyboards.

After Be Bop and Red Noise, the Mylar mirrors were stored in my garage at Haddlesy House and, one day, I thought I might be able to use them in a photograph of some kind. I carted them out to the edge of the village and propped them up using some guitar stands, (hidden behind the mirrors). The wind kept blowing them away as they were rather like sails, but eventually the weather gave me a still moment to take the photograph you see above. Unfortunately the original print and neg have long ago been lost but it remains one of my personal favourite photographs and chimes nicely with those in my 'Arcane Eye' photographic book."




Sounding the Ritual Echo
: "was the icing on the cake. Here was an artist doing everything on his own terms, a one-man cottage industry conjuring up intriguingly evocative sound-worlds and getting them down on tape before the moment passes. The hand-written liner notes, photography and graphic design, the DIY nature of it all - it made a mighty big impression on a kid in a regional town in Australia. (Thanks, Bill!)"

Boat to Forever:

"What I really like about the instrumental albums of that period - Ritual Echo, Trial by Intimacy, Chance Encounters - is the strange, ethereal and completely unique sound of those records. A kind of other worldly quality that is only enhanced by the low-fi and basic production of the albums."


"As soon as this time of year comes along with some good weather it always reminds me of that summer of '81 when [Quit Dreaming] was released...and I always follow it up with Sounding the Ritual Echo as a matter of course...made me look at music in a very different way did that..."

"Sounding the Ritual Echo eventually had more of an an effect on me than its parent -- it is probably part responsible for the way that I started to look at certain things as a young kid - not just this fractured set of sounds full of intention and serendipity but titles such as "Glass Fish for the Final Aquarium" really got my imagination. It's a haunting album full of sounds that conjure up images I can't ever explain. I played QDAGOTB on the way to work today because of these posts reminding me of the 30 year anniversary and played Sounding the Ritual Echo on the way back - I think it's got to be one of the most evocative albums I have the pleasure to possess."

"The Echo Observatory always conjured up fanciful images for me all those years ago listening to Sounding the Ritual Echo...I used to picture this remote and isolated whitewashed dome overlooking the ocean with Bill hard at work inside as the sea rolled in silently in the distance, grass blowing in the wind - that sort of thing...
...the reality was a little different though, but I still maintain it's a great name and playing STRE always brings those kind of images to mind even after all this time."


"Love every crackle and click on this as it brings back some very keen memories.
Turned me on to "ambient" all those years ago."

Southern Dreamer:

"The other wonderful aspect about getting hold of the two LP release was being able to listen to Sounding the Ritual Echo. That particular album opened up a whole new experience of listening to Bill's 'ambient' music (although personally I have never really liked that particular label for his instrumental works). Whilst I was not surprised at the nature of the recordings on that album, having listened to "The Shadow Garden" on the From Brussels with Love cassette many times over the previous year; having a whole album of this instrumental music to sit (or lay) back and just drift or dream along to, gave me an real appreciation for a whole different side to Bill's music, one that has remained just as vital to me as his rock/pop side ever since."

wonder toy:

"I never thought of this music as ambient or new age, etc. To me it was electronic, futuristic and necessary."

"Thank you for being curious and never stopping in the face of many challenges."

John Izzard:

"A quick word about Bill's demos and sketches. It was many of those early demos, including Sounding the Ritual Echo and the Trial by Intimacy box set that inspired confidence in me to make my own music and helped shape my attitude towards the creative process. Those records taught me that it was not necessarily about the big production, budget - or 'being signed', but the seed of an idea being the important thing. I'm sure many other musicians, here and elsewhere, feel the same.
It was brave of Bill to release those pieces in their raw form...although the truth is, the music and ideas were strong enough to stand naked and proud, without the need for further stylisation or polish."

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