360 Business/360 Bypass
By: Eric G.
Pan American is the nom de plume for Mark Nelson, the guitarist and sometimes singer for the experimental post-rock outfit Labradford. With Pan American Nelson gets to explore the ambient side of his electronic pursuits, where Labradford rarely ventures. With only six songs comprising almost an hour of music, Nelson spreads things out, allowing songs to meander and flow. Each song is heavily saturated with rich textures and dubbed-out beats. Nelson occasionally sneaks some eerie whispered vocals into the mix (courtesy of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low), making the haunting soundscapes even more ominous.
Nelson’s digital rhythms vacillate underneath melodies that seem to hang in a sort of atmospheric limbo. He fuses elements of jazz, funk, and dub with subtlety and restraint. Horns barely penetrate the surface in “Double Rail”, but the impact is still compelling thanks to cornetist Rob Mazurek of the Chicago Underground Duo. Certain songs fade out so slowly that their presence is still felt even when they’re gone. Where Labradford trudges along at a snail’s pace, Pan American sputters and fizzes with nocturnal trip-hop rhythms that take a minimalist approach to the electro-dub sound.
360 Business/360 Bypass is an immediately entrancing listen. Nelson’s obsession with pulsing rhythms is a far cry from his other band’s glacial pace. The album’s dark textures float submissively while Nelson peppers his sound with hints of bossa nova and trance-like grooves. This is his second solo full length for Kranky, a label that was founded in order to fund an early Labradford release. Usually, words like ‘dub’, ‘bossa nova’, and ‘jazz-influenced’ are code for ‘avoid’ but not in the case with Pan American- this record gives an overcrowded strain of electronic music a good name.