Nick Nicely's 1982 single "Hilly Fields (1892)" is revered by some collectors and cult aficionados as one of the greatest post-1980 retro-psychedelic rock records ever released. Like many such cult items, it might not live up to its hype to some listeners, but it did bear strong influences from the likes of Syd Barrett, the "Strawberry Fields Forever"-era Beatles, and various strands of late-'60s British psychedelia. The foggy ethereality of the sonic textures and the spacy lost-soul-adrift tone of the songs were other strong links to the golden age of British psychedelia, though there were modern accoutrements to the production and electronic instruments that clearly marked his tracks as works post-dating the actual 1960s. "Hilly Fields (1892)" itself, for instance, has synthesizer and electronic percussion in addition to the son-of-"Strawberry Fields Forever" cellos, as well as wiggly noises that anticipate scratching. Submerged in haunting keyboard washes, downbeat bittersweet melodies, hard-to-identify electronic swipes, disembodied spoken voices, muffled indistinct singing, and distorted fuzzy guitar, much of his material dives deep into the spirit of vintage British psychedelia. For reasons that are as murky as his music, however, Nicely only managed to release a couple of singles in the early 1980s. He did a bunch of recording off and on following those shots in the dark, however, and 18 tracks spanning 1978 to 2004 (including all of the tracks from the official pair of singles) found release on the 2004 CD compilation Psychotropia.
"Born in Greenland during his parents' stopover on a transatlantic flight" according to David Wells' liner notes to Psychotropia, Nicely was able to get financing for studio recording in the U.K. after impressing the publishing company Heath Levy with some of his demos. An advance from Heath Levy enabled him to record the tracks "D.C.T. Dreams" and "Treeline," which he released on his own Voxette label in August 1980 in a pressing of 900 copies. It actually gained European distribution and reached number 32 in Holland, and the "Hilly Fields (1892)" single was licensed by EMI U.K.. A couple of other tracks, "6 B. Obergine" and "On the Coast" (now on Psychotropia), almost found release on singles too. But for mysterious reasons -- a lack of confidence, it's been speculated -- Nicely never managed to issue any more product prior to Psychotropia. His output will find favor with those looking for a more modern counterpart to '60s British psych with some variety and integration of updated technology, though he's grasped the sonic dressings of psychedelia more than he has the more substantial essence of the best psychedelic songwriting. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi