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Pan•American - For Waiting, For Chasing

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Artist: Pan•American

Album: For Waiting, For Chasing

Label: Kranky

Review date: Nov. 30, 2010

This is not a new Pan•American album. Mark Nelson, the project’s main (and often only) man, started work on it in 2004, right after the release of the project’s quintessential recording Quiet City. But the fact that For Waiting, For Chasing came out (and went out of print) on the Austrian label Mosz instead of Kranky make this Pan•American’s most obscure long-player. Kranky is picking it up four years after its initial release and a sizable spell after Mosz let it lapse.

Nelson has always seemed to stand at a remove from his musical touchstones of dub reggae, Gas-eous minimal techno, post-Morricone imaginary soundtrackery, and down-tempo guitar rock; on Quiet City he struck a similar relationship to his environment. It sounds like it was made by a guy passing through the night, observing, maybe briefly interacting, but ultimately unattached.

For Waiting, For Chasing may be Nelson’s most ambient recording, but it also documents an open-armed embrace of connection. He made it during and after his partner’s first pregnancy, and the sounds of their son’s heartbeat recorded through her belly make their way onto every track. Instead of its predecessor’s whispered vocals and walking bass lines focused by reverberant guitars, the music comprises elongated synth and Tibetan singing bowl tones flowing around reverberant but non-propulsive beats.

You might expect the absence of vocals to create a distance, but the opposite is the case. Nelson’s style of singing has been a defining aspect of his music’s outsider qualities; stripped of them, there’s just sound and emotion. With their echo-laden bass reports and drifting high pitches, “Still Swimming” and “The Penguin Speaks” feel positively amniotic; the way “Amulls” resolves electronic crackle and hiss with a delicate piano evokes the exhausted contentment that comes from seeing the little nipper catching their first winks in the open air.

But just as the months before a baby’s arrival are fraught with feelings besides joy, For Waiting, For Chasing is not an unalloyed drift in bliss. The distorted guitar that eats at the dreamy electronics on “Are You Ready?” and the confrontation between tumbling drumbeats and their digitally scuffed descendants on “Dr Christian” effectively recreate the way late-night anxiety overtakes a father-to-be’s anticipatory happiness. Without saying a word, Nelson has made a touching and transparent statement about a universal experience that is usually fraught with schmaltz.

By Bill Meyer

Other Reviews of Pan•American

The River Made No Sound

Quiet City

White Bird Release

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View all articles by Bill Meyer

Find out more about Kranky

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