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Pan-American



After playing in the heavy experimental trio Labradford during the '90s, singer/vocalist Mark Nelson turned his sights towards a slower and simpler experimental sound with his solo project Pan-American. On all three of his releases, the eponymous 1998 debut record, 2000's 360 Business/360 Bypass, and 2002's The River Made No Sound, Nelson has created brilliantly minimal compositions of hypnotic, ambient drift that slither dangerously around the edges of your consciousness. Hot velvet night rhythms move slow like a snaky two-lane road through the jungle at night. On either side lie odd moonlit musical landmarks: muted hard bop cornet flourishes by Chicago underground jazz legend Rob Mazurek, funereal vocals by Low's Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk, lonesome after-hours piano, cool accents of acoustic guitar and pedal steel, sci-fi soundtrack bleeps and squiggles. The mood is exotic, but you won't be a safe, comfortable tourist in the tropical, unfamiliar landscape Pan-American inhabits. It may be slow and ambient, but it isn't quite chill-out music; there's always a hint of the unknown and unpredictable, the dark and seedy, the life that unfolds in the shadows just beyond your sight.

Two tracks come from 360 Business/360 Bypass. "Code," featuring an ethereal, whispery duet between Parker and Sparhawk, is a stunning, constantly shifting ocean of hot and cold textures. "Both Ends Fixed" swells and sighs in an undulating wave of sound built from a deep subterranean bass, lulling acid jazz organ chords, and Mazurek's muted trumpet skittering and skating across the surface of things. "For a Running Dog," from The River Made No Sound, hits you immediately with a light and lush four-on-the-floor bass.