Songs From the Nerve Wheel
2000
Tracks
  • Inhabitat
  • Tangenesis Artifactory
  • Claire, the Loon
  • Pulse Generation
  • One Ear To Water
  • Gravity's Backwash
  • Obekoba
  • Mirth and Demise
  • The Architect of Snowfall
  • Old Man Smithereens
  • Twilight Pistolrake

This is Bill Horist’s second release for Unit Circle Rekkids. His first, Soylent Radio, was an amazing exploration of sonic weirdness translated through wild guitar manipulations. Bill’s style grew and his abilities expanded in the three years since Soylent Radio and this record. Bill takes his patented guitar manipulations technique and expands his palette into new soundscapes and more rhythmic and textural possibilities. This CD was released on June 6, 2000.

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Reviews
The Wire - Issue #200
Finding an individual voice on the guitar isn't easy, considering the ground already covered by the likes of Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, Derek Bailey, Keith Rowe and Keiji Haino, but Bill Horist has found a cosy niche of his own. He thanks Japanese guitarist KK Null on the cover and he's probably Horist's closest reference point. Mostly Horist steers away from six string action painting, prefering to work through hypnotically swinging tracks of foghorn sonorities and deep electronic crackle. - David Keenan
Alternative Press - Issue #150, January 2001
Bill Horist pushes the limits of what an electric guitar can do, but he's not the typical one-trick pony who grabs onto one technique or effect and runs with it. Horist has obviously profited from his numerous guest appearances and band memberships over the past five years, playing everything from ambient and rock to noise-jazz and industrial music. Several tracks are anchored by clanking, gutteral guitar loops, while others are looser and more impressionistic - even delicate at times. Horist's palette of sounds can resemble a Moog synthesizer, theremin or even an ethnic reed instrument as much as a guitar - and further afield, can sometimes suggest exploding musical raindrops, distressed felines or demented killer bees. The interactive loops and monolithic blocks of guitar noise may suggest a crazed Robert Fripp updated for the new milennium, but Horist's scratching and scrabbling also takes him into the conceptual territory of Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser or even Eugene Chadbourne. Most importantly, Horist is not just an arsenal of freaky sound effects. Each of the CD's 11 pieces has a distinct mood and shape, and the range and quality of the material identify Horist as an artist who deserves serious attention from the experimental-music community. - Bill Tilland
All Music Guide
Songs From the Nerve Wheel is a collection of solo guitar improvisations from the free jazz/avant garde end of the spectrum. Horist's use of extended techniques and effects give the whole album a dark, otherworldly tone. Delays are used at times to provide a hint of rhythm as Horist squeaks and scrapes on his guitar, using a musical vocabulary that owes a great debt to Derek Bailey. At times you'd swear this was somehow electronically generated. In fact, there is hardly a hint of any conventional guitar technique anywhere on this recording. Horist definitely knows how to operate his toys, but the lack of a wide tonal range makes the pieces all sound similar. Fans of Henry Kaiser's outside solo guitar improv and K.K. Null's sheets of sound experiments should check this out. Not for the timid. - Sean Westergaard
Your Flesh - Issue #45
I saw Mr. Horist give a hair-raising performance a couple of years back at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. With assorted electronics, metal springs, and percussive tools all connected to his guitar, he stomped around his assemblage with barely contained glee, creating an impressive sound world. Songs From The Nerve Wheel is solo guitar improvisations. My immediate impression is wow! Horist generated underlying beats and percussive elements that provide a nice bed for his otherworldly guitar excursions, as on "Gravity's Backwash." There's a dramatic alien feel to "Inhibitat," as if you could be on a one way journey to the sun. "Claire, the Loon" levitates in a circle around your head, and Horist's guitar sounds like a musical saw darting in and out. The trippy loop underneath "Pulse Generation" is pulled away at the end and remaining hailstorm of guitar twists the song to a close. "One Ear to Water" is more completative and quiet, a Halloween chill at its core. Songs from the Nerve Wheel deserves a place alongside the other vaunted CDs of the genre by people like Bailey, Haino, Mazzacane-Conners, etc. I can't wait to see his live show again. - Wade Iverson
CHAIN D.L.K.
Bill Horist is one of those extremely valuable and resourceful musicians that have a number of credits and collaborations on their past way... I'm not even gonna get into an attempt of mentioning them all but let me tell you that's it's a lot of people from the internation experimental/noise/free-jazz scene and that he's been constantly playing with bands and musicians all over the world and especially on the US west coast (where it seems there is a big experimental/noise movement anyway). His new outing (after a number of self-released records and other releases on other labels) is a great proof of his artistry and his musicianship: modelling, warping and shaping guitar sounds into something that goes beyond exploration of new sonorities. For complete guitar players and lovers of experimental avantgarde stuff... - Marc Urselli-Schärer
Outburn - Issue #13

[5 out of 5] Unique experimental guitar improvisations.

The first track, "Inhabitat," is my introduction to the experimental guitartistry of Bill Horist, sounding like a scrap-yard sculpture come to life, as a rusty loop mutates into a stuttering tribal rhythm upon which tinfoil screech snakes of guitar are strewn, squawking and belching, slithering maddeningly over caustic fret tapping. The impression is unique, completely alien, and totally engrossing. Bill is an experimental guitarist involved in many band projects, as well as has one previous solo guitar release, Soylent Radio. Songs From The Nerve Wheel is the perfect title for his second solo release, as the sensation throughout is that, within each track, the guitar strings like corroded nerve strands are stretched and teased by what sounds like serrated edged plectrums into unrecognizable shapes, inspiring visceral sonic responses. Groaning guitar augmented with a rhythmic loop (loops are utilized throughout) is the foundation for the brittle, splintered metal debris littered over "Pulse Generation." "Old Man Smithereens" speaks in phlegm-coated, incorrigible smatterings of wah-wah induced tonalities; the track itself is a snarling jaunt through grimy back alleys of sound. The raw, primitive percussive base of "Gravity's Backwash" sounds like it would be comfortable on some of Tom Wait's latest recordings, while Bill's elastic guitar manipulations twist and squirm into the language of chaos. Unquestionably one of the most inventive guitar releases this listener has heard in quite some time. Recommended!

- JC Smith
Bizarre - Issue #13
Follow up to the 'Soylent Radio'album which also revolved around treated guitar sound-scapes. After a Period of activity which has included touring in the USA and Europe along with many collaborations. This solo artist seems to have matured with these experiences culminating in a more focused piece of work. Whirling Rhythmic ambiences that float in and out of focus are mixed with guitar tremors. Pulsing otherworldly emanations of unease glide past like out-takes from sci-fi horror not unlike Alien.
Splendid E-Zine
The words "Solo Guitar Improvisations" can strike fear into the heart of the heartiest of experimental music listeners. While there's certainly some fantastic improvised guitar music to be had, there's also lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of the not-so-fantastic stuff, and it's usually about 6 hours long. So I'm always a bit apprehensive when preparing for an evening of listening to a new guitar improv CD. Thankfully, Bill Horist made it easy on me this time, with 11 tracks of creative, attractive, atmospheric noise, most of which is totally unidentifiable as having been created with anything remotely resembling a guitar. That's mostly due to the fact that Horist relies heavily on samples and electronics to shape and fill out his sound. The result is a nice batch of rich and detailed soundscapes, with occasional hints of the more traditional "scrape it/pluck it/stick a chicken under the strings" school of guitar noodling thrown in for good measure. It's not clear from the notes whether Horist is actually making all of this sound live, or whether some of it is added to the tracks after the basic improvisations have been recorded. Since much of the material consists of repeating background noise/rhythm pads, I suspect that he gets a sampler/sequencer groove going and then improvises over the top of it. Regardless, this is interesting stuff, and if you're hungry for music from the edges of the guitar world, Horist might just be what you've been hoping for. - ib
Digital Artifact - Issue #18
Guitar Soundscapes in the vein of Jim O'Rourke and Arto Lindsay form the backbone of Songs From The Nerve Wheel, but the textures behind the twang-scapes are what gives it a delicious sense of atmosphere.
"The Architect Of Snowfall" and "One Ear To Water" are amazing standouts (the former is a melodic, matra-like collage reminiscent of the Throbbing Gristle classic "Weeping") but the entire album itself has a solid flow. It's not really noise-rock, even though that's where it seems like Horist would most likely be shoved in a store rack, but more ambient noise where treated guitars just happen to be the main implement of destruction. Some of the snarls and squeals that come out of this man's instrument are freakily animalistic - pets will probably not be very pleased with Songs From The Nerve Wheel - discerning human ears will far much better. - Michael O'Connor
Earpollution - Issue 2.10

In the history of exploration--be it in art or music or torture--there is a period of experimentation where ideas and expressions are given life to simply gauge the reaction they instill. Is that color too bright? Too yellow? Is the knife blade inserted between these two bones in the hand excruciatingly painful or does it just hurt a little? Is this minor progression exciting or dull? If we sustain this note for half an hour does the audience leave? And if so, at what time during the sustain do they crack and run for the door? You see, that is the trouble with experimental music. If you catch your audience unaware, you're probably clearing the room without any trouble. It's kind of hard to show off your delicate skill in eliciting the subtle tonalities of the upper stratospheric ranges of the modulated recording of your cat lapping milk from a stainless steel dish if anyone within a hundred meters of the sound system wants to put several concrete walls between you and themselves.

...

Bill Horist heads for that tone in the first track of his second release, Songs from the Nerve Wheel, a collection of treated guitar landscapes. I'm diving for the remote and a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, but he's just teasing me--or I'm still in harmonic hell, stumbling around trying to find a door that never existed. Using items randomly lifted from the shelves at Home Depot, Bill inserts them in, around, and through his guitar as he crafts these delicately layered environments. Splintered chords and lost melodies cascade through echoing chambers of bleak wood and, elsewhere, radio waves sparkle and chirp over layers of slo-moan static. These aren't songs that you can wrap the active part of your brain around; these are songs meant to be slipped under your fingernails and allowed to work their way back to the nerve clusters in your elbows and at the base of your skull. Maybe that's what experimental is all about. Peeling back the dead layers of our tough, outer skins and touching our nerves--touching us where we can still feel--and watching how we respond. - Mark Teppo

Vital Weekly - Issue #240

If we have to mention one instrument that symbolizes decades and decades of popular music of the 20th century, then we have to mention the guitar. That's evident. Blues, country, rock'n'roll, hardrock, you name it, the guitar was the key instrument. Since the seventies the guitar got more and more competition. With Kraftwerk, disco, house,etc. electronics became more and more important. Although this may be a correct picture when talking in general, looking more closely we see other trends and developments as well. One is of particular interest here. Guitar players like Derek Bailey, Fred Frith, Eugene Chadbourne and many other guitarists from the obscure world of free improvisation have inspired rockbands and artists (like Jim O'Rourke) in expanding traditional ways of 'playing' the guitar, searching for new capabillities.

Bill Horist is a recent example of this as he is obviously inspired by these improvisers (and Robert Fripp!) as can be heard on his new solo cd. No traditional guitarplaying here, the guitar is 'treated' in many ways. Horist is from Seattle. He scored several soundtracks for television and plays in numerous bands ranging from avant-rock to ambient, from improvisation to industrial. He played with other guitarists like K.K.Null, Luigi Archetti. He impressed with his first solo effort 'Soylent Radio'. I cannot compare 'Songs from the Nerve Wheel' with earlier work because this cd is my introduction to his music. The cd sheds light on only one aspect of his work containing 11 solo improvisations. Abstract sound collages, difficult to describe. Noisescapes sometimes with a percussive feel or rhythmic structure. Solos within repetitive structures.

- DM
Babysue Reviews - September 2000
Ain't no "hits" HERE! And that's a GOOD thing because...believe us...it gets rather samey and tiring listening to one band after another all striving for a commercial (or underground) goddamn HIT. Shouldn't creating something credible and unique be the ultimate goal? If so, then you can consider underground recording artist Bill Horist a success. So now...to try and describe the music. Basically, these "compositions" are experimental treatments of electric guitars. The sound is sparse yet spacey...sometimes soothing, sometimes grating. And, fortunately, the cool noise is not hampered by the presence of those oh-so-annoying electronic rhythms that completely ruin so many home produced electronic projects. Song titles like "Tangenesis Artifactory" and "The Architect of Snowfall" give some indication of just how obtuse and uncommercial this disc is. See the label's web site at http://www.unitcircle.com (this is a music label to keep an eye on). This CD is recommended ONLY for folks into extremely experimental stuff...because it will most likely drive everyone else up the WALL. Should please folks who really liked Brian Eno's early recordings... (Rating: 5/5)
Dead Angel - Issue #42

If all the sounds on this disc truly came from a guitar, then God walks among us and his name is Bill. I spend many hours making strange sounds with my own guitar and i have absolutely no idea how he came up with some of these sounds. Bill is either a genius or he has a lot of time on his hands... or maybe both...

Even better news is that while his first release, SOYLENT RADIO, was an excellent exploration of new frontiers in wonky guitar sounds, this one eclipses that album in terms of the mutant sound quotient and improves dramatically on his compositional skills. Here the sounds are actually structured and assembled in service of something resembling songs (although not even remotely traditional ones), rather than being presented as sound for the sake of sound itself. He's apparently discovered the exciting world of loops -- "Inhibitat" is grounded by various loops (one of wonky noise, one of what sounds like detuned percussion, and so on) that come and go as he layers various other sound effects over the top, creating a shifting bedrock leavened with horn-like sounds and squeaks and squawks, sort of like an industrial Borbetomagus, perhaps. Industrial clanking sounds appear with regularity throughout the disc, actually -- often, as in the case of "Tangenesis Factory" -- acting as the rhythm element while other treated sounds (what sounds like dueling horns and groaning strings on that particular track, for instance) weave in and out of the mix.

"Pulse Generation" is even better -- almost like industrial dance music done with actual attention to detail, opening with ambient wails and eventually turning into a pulse rhythm over which loops of treated guitar and ghostlike ephemera build and mutate. "One Ear to Water" is more ambient, almost like the quiet passage of some orchestral piece, with watery reverbed guitar and shining viola-like drones that build and reverberate like the sounds of an echo chamber. "Mirth and Demise" demonstrates that he has strange ideas about rhythm -- it begins with a loop of what might have begun life as a bass riff, but almost as soon as it appears it starts dying away, only to return a bit later accompanied by other snippets of sound. Then it fades out altogether as another rhythm loop takes over, augmented by what sounds like nearly-random slide guitar. Talk about alien soundtracks, this is it -- this may well be what Chrome was really hinting at with their half-machine lip moves... which makes me think that it could be really interesting to see a collaboration between Horist and Helios Creed. That would be a mind-melting album, i'm sure...

I like "The Architect of Snowfall" just for the title alone. It turns out to be another collection of drones and watery efx, very desolate in sound, haunting and gorgeous at the same time. More evidence that Bill should be doing soundtracks for the film industry. More ominous rhythms emerge on "Old Man Smithereens," with more strange efx snippets as well. Parts of the guitar track sound like it's being disassembled with the pickups still intact, and yet it never sounds out of control. What interests me is that, as with most of the material on this disc, there are several layers of sound to focus on; exotic sounds lurk in the forefront, the background, and around the edges, and what captures your attention most probably says more about you than about Horist. "Twilight Pistolrake" has a minimal rhythm element -- a combination of percussion and guitar scratching looped endlessly -- that leaves plenty of room for drones that swell and fade and unpredictable twitches of brief guitar. This is truly exotic sounding stuff...

This collection could well appeal to industrial, free jazz, and experimental guitar fans -- not a bad combination. I particularly appreciate the rhythms that invoke machine movements, since so much of the experimental guitar field appears to be beatless and i really like beats. An excellent album in general and one that definitely pegs Horist as one to keep an eye on in the future.

Improvijazzation Nation - Issue #44
Dense, thick and rich solo guitar improvisations that will put you (right back) in TOUCH with your "nerve wheel". We were fortunate enough to review his first CD, "Soylent Radio", also released on UNIT CIRCLE REKKIDS. This round seems to be at a level "below" that first release (& that's a compliment, as it means that his playing digs down into the psyche even FURTHER). Somehow, there needs to be collaboration betwixt Bill & my (acoustic guitar improvisor) friend Ernesto Diaz-Infante (down in San Francisco), if there hasn't been such already... Ernesto's playing style definitely comes to mind! I particularly enjoyed "Gravity's Backwash" (track 6), but that's probably because it has a steamrolling rhythmic undercurrent to "guide" the listener through the strange sonic territory. This album will THRILL those who dig experimental guitar & frighten those more into "normal". It gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best improv guitar works". - Rotcod Zzaj
Seattle Weekly - June 15, 2000

(4 out of 5 stars)

If you want to know the currently disturbed state of guitar than you have no more urgent duty than to spin the fiercely beautiful solo improvisations of Bill Horist, one of the leaders of Seattle's avant-jazz movement. Bent scrapes, siren drills, and gulped shrieks are set against a neural/industrial pulse that's as soulful as it is scary. This is noise with feeling, strangely tender and completely mesmerizing.

Terra Soundtralis Incognita (Polish web zine)

Horist to kontynuator linii gitarowego grania wyznaczonej przez Jima O'Rourke, Freda Fritha, Henry Kaisera i Hansa Reichela, żeby wymienić tylko najbardziej zasłużonych innowatorów sześciostrunowego instrumentu. Podobnie jak na wielu płytach wyżej wymienionych, "Piosenki z Nerwowego Koła" nie podlegają łatwej kategoryzacji. Przede wszystkim Horist stawia na ekspresję. Pomaga mu w tym zamysł autorski w postaci improwizacji. Język wypowiedzi amerykańskiego gitarzysty nie należy popularnych, dzięki czemu całość odkrywa przed słuchaczem całkiem ciekawe wymiary.

Estetyka w jaką przystraja Horist swoje minimalne impresje robi wrażenie niedbałej - coś gdzieś zaskwierczy, coś zaszumi, jęknie i zapiszczy. Pamiętać należy jednak, że wszystko jest bardzo przemyślane. Krótkie, kilkuminutowe pejzaże prezentują całą gamę możliwości jakie umożliwia gitara zaopatrzona w dobry piec i kilka efektów zniekształcających brzmienie. Od sekwencji uchwyconych poprzez echo nastawione na nieskończone powtarzanie, poprzez pełne dysonansów chmury postrzępionych melodii, na filmowych, nastrojowych i wyciszonych kompozycjach skończywszy. Część nagrań rozwija się powoli i statecznie, inne z kolei nagle eksplodują i tak samo gasną. Wszystkie utwory cechuje miękkość brzmienia, wszystkie wydają się być świadomie okrojone z sopranów - tak jakby sprytna ręka Horista okradła je z wysokiego, szpilkowego pasma, pozostawiając tylko średnicę i dół.

Twórczość Horista to bardzo dobry przykład gitarowego eksperymentu z wyobraźnią, w którym inwencja brzmieniowa, klimat i treść grają pierwszoplanowe role. Warto posłuchać.

Bill Horist is an artist who successfully finds his own pigeonhole among two other masters of the guitar: Jim O'Rourke and Fred Frith. "Songs Form The Nerve Wheel" refer to the both, but besides some similarities (improvisation, unique sound of the instrument, expression and feeling, imagination), Horist manages to create his own style, beginning his musical where rock music ends and experimnet begins. What we hear on the album are a few stories investigating the subtle interplay between the unconventionally treated instrument and the human factor. The short pieces seem to be untidy and a bit chaotic at the first glance. But if you let them grow, they will reveal their hidden nature.

Bill Horist likes ambience - he explores different sides of it by providing us with haunting soundscapes on one hand and discreet, lo-fi hums and drones on the other. I am not sure whether some studio overdubs were used, but nevertheless it is of a lesser importance here. One or two compositions contain a rhythm, but distant enough and not too absorbing. Overall, it is a fine release: experimental and accesible enough, dark and cheering, minimalistic, but dense. Not only for guitar freaks.

History of Rock Music
Bill Horist's second solo album, Songs From The Nerve Wheel (Unit Circle Rekkids, 2000), is another set of solo guitar improvisations that sound like anything but solo guitar improvisations. Inhibitat is seven minutes of wildly dissonant, interstellar radio signals, that end with what sound like bagpipes. The album's most cogent moments are a couple of deconstructed blues, the Hendrix-ian Gravity's Backwash and The Architct Of Downfall, but mostly Horist is too busy indulging in the eerie sounds of his guitar and, while Old Man Smithereens creates enough landscape and suspense, most tracks are little more than personal notes for the artist. His technique remains monumentally revolutionary but art is not just technique.