Elegant Daze here
Review for Lysergia here
|SELECTED REVIEWS for PSYCHOTROPIA:||Sanctuary issue sleeve, and an older version (right)|
Reissue cover on Grapefruit / Cherry Red (CRSEG 014) and alternate version
From Record Collector june 2010 by Ian Shirley:
The man who inspired
the Dukes Of Stratosphear…
Collectors of rare psych know that the late 60s is littered with bands who recorded one, two or three singles before vanishing from sight, leaving only fantastic music behind them. The always lower-cased nick nicely performed this feat during the early 80s, recording two psychedelic singles that received positive reviews but never secured major label backing to allow for nicely to record an album.
These singles were reissued in 2004 by Tenth Planet as Psychotropica [sic], with a variety of demos and other recordings. Then issued on CD by Sanctuary, that label’s financial problems soon saw its deletion and is now rolled out by Cherry Red on their Grapefruit imprint. Anyone who’s never heard the 1982 single Hilly Fields is in for a treat, as it not only sounds like a collaboration between The Beatles and Pink Floyd but mixes hip-hop record scratching and contemporary synthesisers into the mix.
Despite being recorded at different times between the 80s and 00s, tracks such as Elegant Daze and On The Coast hang together like the two sides of a fantastic lost classic. On The Beach – recorded in 1998 – just blows the mind with its inventive musical persuasion, while there are also David Wells’ ever masterful sleevenotes to savour.
From Record Collector late 2009 or early 2010:
Nick Nicely is perhaps the ultimate musical cult hero — he released two singles in the U.K. in the early ’80s, both of which earned critical acclaim but gathered little commercial steam, and then he fell below the radar. Nicely’s mix of ’60s psychedelic influences and the sonic vocabulary of ’80s New Wave prefigured the work of artists like Robyn Hitchcock, The Three O’Clock, and XTC’s paisley alter egos The Dukes of Stratosphear, but it would take 22 years before anything more was heard from the British singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist. When the Psychotropia collection finally arrived in 2004, it included Nicely’s semi-legendary singles alongside a bounty of previously unreleased tracks, revealing that he had been working in seclusion for years, turning out material equal to his earliest output, but initially keeping it to himself. Today, Nicely is said to be working on an actual album of new material, but whether that comes to pass or not, we can thank our lucky stars that we have Psychotropia to keep us company, in all its psych-pop-soaked, synthesizer-laced, mind-bending, music-from-an-alternate-reality glory.
From Ugly Things:
NICK NICELY Psychotropia (Tenth Planet, UK) LP
I recall, many moons ago, around the time I first encountered UT, the big kerfuffle when the Misfits were featured on the cover. I'd never heard that group so couldn't understand it myself, but there were those who objected on principle. Not '60s. Not garage. Not, not, not and more not. Hmmm, I mused thoughtfully. "Wild sounds from past dimensions"; not an entirely unadmirable sentiment, and by no means exclusive. I like this magazine. And why shouldn't they have a group called the Misfits on the cover? Some folk are so touchy. And so on. And so it went on. Many years later we're all older and wiser, aren't we, and I find myself writing a review of a recording employing mainly synthesisers and drum machines. So here we go again, perhaps. I hope not, though.
Nick Nicely is an integral part of my musical life. In the early '80s I was on the look-out for people who eschewed the norm. Folk who got up to all sorts in the privacy of their bedrooms. Outcasts. Outsiders. The usual, or, should you prefer, the unusual. Nick Nicely first attracted me via the sly humour of the pseudonym, coined when a brusque colleague demanded a cigarette, only to be told by a third party to "ask Nick nicely" - a good start.
However, on reading the article on him in Bucketful of Brains, I demurred. Both of his singles were compared in glowing terms to the Beatles, especially the more psychedelic offerings such as "Strawberry Fields Forever." I didn't like The Beatles then and I still don't. But on hearing the records, I realised two things. First, the Bucketful Of Brains columnist was in error; Nick Nicely didn't sound like the Beatles at all. Secondly, these records were great! And they still are.
"DCT Dreams"/ "Treeline," the first single, utilises some guitar, apart from that it's all electronics and vocals. Irrespective of how you stand with regard to things like that, the sheer wit, invention, care and individuality of Nick Nicely shines through. His visions of otherworldliness (for that is what these songs are) ensures the music stands as far from contemporary synth-pop of the day as it does from any '60s revivalist fare. (Which isn't to condemn either of those categories out of hand; it's just that this is a different kettle of fish altogether, in my opinion.) The A-side of his second 45, "Hilly Fields (1892)" remains his best-known track. A melange of electronics, cello, sung and spoken voices and the first non-hip-hop use of scratching I ever came across, wrapped around a contagious melody and a pleasantly bizarre lyric, it retains its singular appeal to this day, as much at odds with the music of today as with the '60s or the '80s. The flip is another matter. "49 Cigars" uses real drums, bass and guitar in a more overtly conventional way and resembles, if you'll pardon the expression, a prime slice of English freakbeat-cum-psychedelia. Not that it's a weak link in the Nicely canon; the droning rhythms, frenzied piano and backward guitar underpin a sublime melody and a superb lyric. (The couplet "Under garage eyes/See me cry" ranks for me with the best work of Syd Barrett or Bruno McQuillan, never mind dullards like Lennon and McCartney.) The fact that the session was for the most part recorded by persons under the influence of potent LSD is neither here nor there. It's a fantastic track, regardless.
In addition to these discs, Psychotropia contains material recorded before and after. The beautiful "1923" dates from 1978, whilst other tracks such as the supremely elegant
“Everyone Knows" were recorded in the
'90s. But they all share the omnipresent melodic touch, wistful ambience and focussed
vision of a true original. Although Nick was suitably discouraged when EMI neglected to
promote "Hilly Fields (1892)" adequately and became
resigned to his unreleased recordings remaining so, this record has an uncanny feel of a realised and structured album rather than the compilation it actually is. This is surely a testament to the singular originality and determinedly individualistic talent of Nick Nicely. The lyrical and musical continuity is startling. Beautiful, wistful melodies comprised with a lyrical bent of a deeply personal and impressionistic nature results in wonderful songs
like "On the Coast" (planned as the follow-up to "Hilly Fields (1892)", the mysterious "Beverly", the achingly beautiful "I Remember" and the track originally intended as the B-side to "Hilly Fields," the bizarrely titled "6B obergine," as fine an example of psychedelic modality as you'll find.
The more that I listen to his music, the greater my suspicion that Nick Nicely's place in music history is assured, but also misconstrued, as if he's been misplaced somehow; even in retrospect, such a slippery customer.
No revivalist he; more a misunderstood eccentric who was in the right place at the right time for those poor souls whose self-appointed lifelong mission is to herald the coming of The Second Summer Of Love or what have you. If he's part of anything, Nick Nicely is for me at least part of the late '70s/early '80s DIY brigade. Verily, the can of worms doth open.
Oh well. All this strange stuff about revivalism
and who should be written about in what is so silly, really. Personally I can live with
the fact that Nick Nicely made fantastic music and now we can get it all again and more
besides. Let's count our blessings, shall we?
In conclusion, it should be noted that this release has been overseen by David Wells (he of Tenth Planet/Wooden Hill fame: contact him at 13 Barricane, St. Johns, Woking, Surrey U21 1RB, UK) so take it as read that such laudable features as 180g vinyl, pristine sound reproduction, utterlycomplementary and exemplary sleeve artwork and prodigious "mine of information" sleevenotes are the order of the day. Thanks, David.
Oh, one last thing. There are at this stage no definite plans to issue this recording on CD. However, its allure was such that I made purchase despite the fact that the only record player I then had access to had to be reassembled, having fallen into disuse. After a few hours of cursing and sweating (I hate doing that sort of thing) I was reacquainted with Nick Nicely and his inimitable music. I made the right decision. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I recommend you follow suit. (Richard Mason)
[webmaster note – there is of course a CD release on Castle with some added tracks – check it out]
from Platomania: http://www.platomania.nl/maniagenre.asp?cdid=16464&platomanianr=199
Weirdest thing. You haven't heard the song for ages and as soon as it starts, you find yourself singing along. That's what happened to me when I heard Nick Nicely's DCT Dreams again. It was a hit in 1981 but it stuck around in my subconscious. But nicely has made more beautiful music besides DCT Dreams. Psychotropia contains 18 songs, the youngest of which date back to 2004 and the oldest to 1978. The style is predominantly synth pop in all its facets. The Strawberry Fields Forever - like Hilly Fields (1982), a cult hit from that era, and 49 Cigars, a song with hit potential, are also remarkable. Psychotropia puts us in touch again with an interesting musician.
From OOR magazine, Netherlands, 01/2005:
This CD owes its existence mainly due to the efforts and investigations of David Wells. England's foremost psychedelic archeologist discovered that the two wonderful singles that Nick Nicely issued in the early eighties were just the tip of the iceberg. Wells issued a limited vinyl pressing of Nicely's songs on his own label Tenth Planet. This in turn forms the basis of this CD, for which Wells also wrote the elaborate liner notes. DCT Dreams, the first single recorded by Greenland-born Nicely, was a very modest hit in 1980, in Holland among other countries. But its successor Hilly Fields (1892), which Nick worked on for six months in the studio, turned out to be his masterpiece. This alienating evocation of a park in South London puts Sgt Peppers psychedelic esthetics in a time machine bound for the eighties. The single's lack of success announced the end of Nicks career. But he kept recording regularly. This compilation proves that his song writing abilities have remained constant over the years. For instance, On the Beach (The Ladder Descends) approaches the quality of Hilly Fields. Highly recommended.
From Mojo: (http://www.mojo4music.com/)
psych-revival avatar and two-flop wonder's complete works on CD.
Nikolas Laurien's story is depressingly common: talented but introverted artist suffers enforced underachievement from being helplessly out-of-step with the prevailing mood. His biggest brush with renown was a dazzling modern-psych single released by EMI in 1982 .Hilly Fields, a masterpiece supposedly constructed at home and at great personal hardship over six months, a DIY Good Vibrations, all scratching decks and spooky cellos. Its genius encouraged XTC's Andy Partridge to cut 'The Dukes of Stratosphear’ and the dozens who bought it (yours truly among them ) to die waiting for a subsequent album. Twenty two years on, it arrives! Recorded piecemeal throughout the 80s and 90s, it feels like three decades of music- Beatles, Eno, Utopia, Buggles, MBV-flashing by in a spaceship, a delirious pop fans ecstatic narcotic rush. Personally, I'd have edited it into a concise, perfect 12 tracker, but you can do that yourself. Marvellous.
============From Record Collector:
*** A retrospective that transcends mere period charm.
A British resurgence of unadulterated psychedelia in the 1980s was epitomised by this bloke's optimum moment with no-expense-spared Hilly Fields (1892) , a single that was, as Debussy said of Wagner's Das Rheingold "a glorious sunset mistaken for a dawn" . It was certainly all Joe Average would recall of Nick Nicely , despite worthier follow-ups such as 1982's serene On The Coast.
Much like listening to Traffic,The Pink Floyd and the Beatles circa 1967, it's evidenced by a Syd Barrett mannerism here, a George Harrison-esque riff there, but welded together, these 18 tracks----even rediscovered out-takes----amount to a controlled production. Ear-catching melody and erudite lyrics are never lost amid the oscillations, sound effects and studio trickery that disguised many essentially banal perceptions in Nicely's role models and contemporaries. The only major criticism I have is that most of the biographical notes are in small black type on turquoise background, rendering them difficult to read without a magnifying glass .
From Dusty Groove America - http://www.dustygroove.com/cgi-sys/cgiwrap/dga/search.cgi?usersrch=%22nick+nicely%22&issearch=yes
Lost psychedelic genius from a very unlikely era -- the early 80s! Nick Nicely was a real enigma in the post-punk years -- a throwback to the late 60s, post-Pet Sounds/Sgt Peppers era -- yet also working in a style that borrowed some slight new wave touches, to make for a really unique approach to the music! There's a really unusual sound here overall -- one that has bits and pieces of later, larger groups from the UK (particularly some of the Creation Records crowd of the mid 80s) -- but which comes off here with a clear and personal vision that makes for a really standout set, and which doesn't have any of the heavy cliches or easy tricks of other acts from the paisley revival era. CD features material from the full album, plus singles -- and titles include "Treeline", "Hilly Fields (1892)", "Beverly", "On The Beach", "Psychotropia", "DCT Dreams", "On The Coast", "Everyone Knows", and "The Doors Of Perception"
From Zone 5300:
The Dutch Hit Dossier doesn't mention it, but the eccentric English musician Nick Nicely seems to have had a single in the Dutch hitparade. The 1982 release 'Hilly Fields' was by all means a cult hit, just like the release from a year before, 'DCT Dreams' which came only as far as the Tip Parade [webmaster note: a Dutch phenomenon from that time, containing tips for the actual hit parade]. With its deformed vocals, strings, echoes and even primitive scratching, Hilly Fields is a strange piece of studio technology, in which Nick openly pays tribute to 'Strawberry Fields Forever' (1967) by The Beatles and 'God Only Knows' (1966) by The Beach Boys. Nicely was initially classified under the nostagic New Romantic movement, an early eighties trend which features the use of gitars and synths to create a "great" sound. But while A Flock of Seagulls and Heaven 17 concentrate on flashy outfits and haircuts, Nicely translates his admiration for past times into his music only. NME chooses Hilly Fields as Best Psychedelic Record since the '60s. After a few singles that were mainly played on English radio, Nicely seems to have disappeared into thin air until a collection of his material is released under the title 'Psychotropia' on an obscure vinyl label in 2003, featuring the aforementioned singles and unreleased studio work. The more recent CD version of Psychotropia proves that Nicks songs are still relevant and contain an aspect of urgency, contrary to the material of many of his contemporaries which has gone stale. Songs like "On the Beach" and "Treeline" feature an outdated kind of eighties bombast, but otherwise Nicely blends sixties elements (compact songs, guitars, strings and weird studio tricks) with eighties elements (electronics and synth pop) into a timeless unity. Nicks strange sense of time helps to perform this task: 'Hilly Fields" has as subtitle '1892' and furthermore lyrics like "why did you leave me in 1959" and "a hundred years later in ten minutes time" are spotted. Combined with references to clouds, colours, world travel, marmalade, aubergines and a Monty Pythonesque sense of humour, Psychotropia turns out to be a curious, checkered record that will fit well into the collection of psychedelic music lovers.
From Algemeen Dagblad, Netherlands:
British magazine NME described Nick Nicely's Hilly Fields from 1982 as the best psychedelic LP (sic) since the sixties. It's true that this British synthesizer virtuoso was inspired by the Beatles' Strawberry Fields Forever and the Beach Boys' God Only Knows. Psychotropia - with its Monty Pythonesque sleeve - is a collection of obscure singles and including the rhythm box based near-hit DCT Dreams and a number of unreleased recordings. With the consecutive electro summer track On the Beach and the album's title song Nicely bridges the gap between sixties psychedelica and eighties New Romantic to the recent new wave revival. - N.H.
From Heaven (Belgium)
Sideline - by Eric van Domburg Scipio
It was a bit of a strange experience when someone offered me an interview opportunity with Nick Nicely the other day. Nick Who? I hear you thinking, and I can't blame you, because who's heard of the guy these days? If he's still famous somewhere, it has to be in The Netherlands. After all, this is where he had his only hit: DCT Dreams. Although it's 24 years ago and you can debate about the hit status of the single since it only reached the 32nd spot, and according to the (Dutch) Top 40 Hit Dossier it only came as far as the Tip Parade. I was however not interested in an interview because of this, but because of Nicks second single Hilly Fields (1892), a psychedelic masterpiece in the vein of Strawberry Fields Forever. Hilly Fields (1892) is one of the most beautiful songs ever made. It supposedly inspired XTC front man andy Partridge to form the psychedelic XTC offshoot The Dukes of Stratosphear.
Despite numerous rumours, nothing was released after that second single, apparently because Nick was such a perfectionist that he couldn't finish such a complex song ever again to his satisfaction. Until suddenly last year a full album was released, Psychotropia, largely filled with recordings from that era, but soon after also on CD with several new songs. I didn't immediately consider this to be an item for Heaven, but I was personally rather curious to hear his story, since we haven't seen it too often in the history of pop music that someone debuts as album artist twenty years after he's released two obscure singles.
My conversation with nicely, who moved to Germany in the meantime, wasn't very informative, but the bare fact that he's making music again gave me hope, especially since he was very enthusiastic about a new song he's working on: Whirlpool. But I wouldn't hold my breath that you'll ever really get to hear it.
[webmaster note: of course Whirlpool really materialized in the meantime, as well as a albums worth of new songs, whcih we hope will be released soon]
finally here's my take at the thing:
NICK NICELY - PSYCHOTROPIA (note: written for the LP ,the CD has extra tracks which are just as great)
PSYCHOTROPIA - last year, a collection of unreleased material by nick nicely appeared as an LP on Tenth Planet. The release also included the much-acclaimed two singles that constitute the contribution of Mr Nicely to pop music history. One of these is the legendary Hilly Fields, which is now finally accessible for all on the new Sanctuary CD which was released 18 July 2004.
The question is, of course: have other hidden treasures been unearthed?
First, it should be noted that some people think Hilly Fields is brilliant, but DCT Dreams etc. is some sort of variation on Depeche Mode. Well, these people will have to see Psychotropia as a chance to finally get their hands on a decent copy of HF. It's worth it just for this track.
For the rest of us, there's plenty of surprises. Actually, I found almost all of the other unreleased tracks just as great as the released material. Nicks singles (and their B-sides) stand out as a small but very significant monument of genuine psychedelica. Their greatness can be explained by the fact that they're excellent songs in the first place (like a lot of the other tracks on the album). Hilly Fields doesn't mesmerize people only because of its multilayered arrangements, but also - mostly - because it has a wonderful melody below it. Then, there's a certain lack of clarity - a very pleasant one - which makes this real, honest psychedelica. The album contains elaborate, trippy, sometimes abstract arrangements, i.e. real psychedelia, inspired by '66-67 Beatles and '66 -'69 UK psych pop, early Floyd and the experimental-arrangements-meet-strong-songwriting ethos of those times.
Another aspect worthy of mentioning is the trippiness of it all. With the possible
exception of one or two tracks, these songs do what psychedelic music is supposed to do,
which could be described as translating an acid trip into music. Acid vibes pervade the
album, not just because of the arrangements (which are often subtle, and therefore much
more effective than a lot of in-your-face attempts at sounding psychedelic) but
also, mainly, because of the songwriting. And the lyrics of course, which are sufficiently
vague to defy all attempts at full understanding (the reason why I'm not going to put them
up on the site), yet consistent enough to evoke a special atmosphere which I've never
encountered in other music. They contain a number of recurring themes - in fact, almost
all the tracks are cross-referenced. There's repeated mention of the 18th of July, coasts
and beaches, years, DCT, Tresillian (after a road near Hilly Fields, top left on the
background map on some areas on this site) adding a nice twist to the consistency of the
The first surprise is that Nick has been recording songs in '83, 85. 1998 and ... 2004. But if you listen to the record, there's no way of telling which is the newer stuff. It's like Nick periodically materializes again to record something secretly in an abandoned studio at night, then disappears again. The consistency in style is amazing.
Of course Nicks singles are here - DCT Dreams is present in an extended version that takes off into a more trippy atmosphere towards the end. This bit was left off the Hansa single release, and it's also missing on the original Voxette release. The LP version was done off an old master tape.
If you take Hilly Fields as a reference point, well, this single and its flipside 49 Cigars are indeed the true heirs to Strawberry Fields and I am the Walrus. Treeline, the B-side of DCT Dreams, follows a similar pattern. But the rest of this album is on the other side of DCT Dreams - more electronic and subtle. If this album reveals anything, it's the fact that Nick indeed tried something different after Hilly Fields - trying to be psychedelic in his own style, rather than desperately trying to sound psychedelic in a '60s way. According to the notes on the LP, he sort of got stuck after Hilly - although it wasn't a hit, it certainly was an alltime classic - and apparently either he or EMI decided everything after it was crap. Well, it certainly isn't! Just like DCT Dreams, the rest of this album is a true and unique collection of electronic psychedelica - probably the only one until now (maybe apart from the early work of the Legendary Pink Dots). The other songs are much less '60s oriented in sound (though probably not in essence), and all share a similar feeling. Actually one of the newest contributions, the title track, is indeed a VERY trippy affair. The other 2003-4 contributions make us wonder whether Nick is cooking up some more (actually I know that Nick's written some more new material, so who knows there'll be a totally new album!)
Going into detail: Beverly is a lovely track with its pulsating rhythm box and (reversed?) synth sounds. Nick seems to have slowed down the tape of the vocal a bit, or he decided to sing in another register than usual. And a great song - a true gem. The sound of Elegant Daze somehow reminded me of Shriekback or DM - a flashback to the 80s for sure, and a little disappointing because it's, well, almost normal. On the Coast was rejected as the third single, but it remains a great song, a brave attempt to create something other than Hilly Fields. Too bad about the sax solo in the middle on the intended single version, this really destroys the atmosphere. The track is also present as an alternative outtake which Nick cobbled together from the old arrangements he kept on tape - leaving out the apparently awful drums (I can imagine). The string arrangements are beautiful and this is definitely a standout track. It was produced by Chris Porter and includes sessions by Don Snow and Dave Stewart.
The Other Side is one of the true surprises of the record - sweet, elegant, and mysterious. On the Beach was recorded in 1998 but blends in perfectly with this collection.
1923 is an early NN track from 1978 which betrays Nicks ambitions towards the perfect psychedelic pop song. It somehow reminded me of Rupert Hine's early symphonic work. Very British, a bit strange. Remember is sort of a follow-up to DCT Dreams and just as great. It's hardly a song really, just a rhythm machine, meandering synth loop, reversed tapes and Nicks ethereal vocals, but it's 100% atmosphere and highly addictive.
6B Obergine was originally called GB Obergine (still featured in the lyrics) but Nick decided 6B was a better title after Bucketfull of Brains magazine made a typo. It's a decent electronic tune, but I can imagine that it was replaced by 49 Cigars - it has a slightly annoying happy atmosphere reminiscent of OMD after their first album. It's very catchy though, I couldn't get it out of my head for two days. Rickman Godlee plays cello on this one too.
Everyone Knows is one of the best surprises on the CD, where we find Nick succesfully putting a fraction of '90s sound into his music while at the same time retaining a lot of Nick Nicelyness, so it still fits in nicely with the rest of the record. It was recorded over 15 years after most of the other stuff on this LP. One wonders whether Nick has been doing more of this recently, it's -again - a very addictive song.
To conclude, it's a bloody shame the rest of Nicks music was shelved for so long, and it's great to hear it all finally. A true psychedelic classic.
Get your copy now!
1 Hilly Fields (1892) [2nd single]
2 Treeline [Bside to DCT Dreams]
3 49 Cigars [Bside to Hilly Fields]
4 Beverly 
5 On The Beach (the ladder descends) 
6 Psychotropia 
7 A Hundred Years Later 
8 Heaven's Gate 
9 Remember 
10 Elegant Daze 
11 DCT Dreams [1st single]
12 The Other Side 
13 On The Coast 2 [alternative version] [recorded 1982, remixed 2003]
14 Everyone Knows 
15 1923 
16 6B Obergine 
17 On The Coast [aborted 3rd single] 
18 The Doors of Perception [1998
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