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During the summer of 1997, Mark Nelson started recording a full length album for kranky at home and at Sound of Music Studios in Richmond, Virginia. Mark Nelson had been playing guitar and singing in Labradford, but wanted to explore the possibilities of sampling and computer technology as well as his interests in dub and techno. The self-titled, debut Pan•American album came out on kranky in early 1998.
A review in Puncture magazine described it later that year:
"Dub's influence on Pan•American is pervasive - cavernous, echoed percussion; resonant bass drones; Nelson's hushed vocals dwelling somewhere in the middle ground. If you turn the sound low, you can still hear the rhythms booming from the speakers. Yet the coiled, conserved energy dub rhythms doesn't obscure the delicacy and expressiveness of the underlying structure. While radiant, liquid guitar motifs trace delicate patterns across the surface, the adaptive and limber rhythm tracks add necessary tension and cohesion."
Nelson continued to work on Pan•American material as he worked with Labradford, learning to play pedal steel guitar, releasing singles on European labels and getting some studio time in with engineer Casey Rice. Rob Mazurek from Chicago Underground Trio and Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low contributed cornet and vocals, respectively. The resulting album, 360 Business / 360 Bypass, was released by kranky in North America (and Blast First in Europe) in early 2000.
Fred Mills wrote in the June/July issue of Magnet that
"Nelson has a wraithlike quality; sometimes he lurks, but you always sense his presence, a deeply haunting one that's resonant on the purest of emotional levels. This is the first unassailably great album of the century."
More singles and compilation tracks followed, along with the odd live performance. Nelson's placement behind a synthesizer and mixing desk belied the improvisational nature of the live mix. Between sternum-rattling bass rhythms and Nelson's willingness to challenge an audience of with outbursts of static, Pan•American shows were more than the usual knob-twiddling and smooth noodle maps.
The third Pan•American record was entitled The River Made No Sound and was released by kranky in North American and Vertical Form in Europe in April 2002. Mark Nelson told Eye magazine in October 2002 that "When I started I really had it in mind to make a more rhythmic record influenced by house music. I did the whole thing at home by myself, so I guess by the end my natural inclination towards ambience and peaceful textures won out." Stripped back compared to previous albums, The River Made No Sound, traded dub undertow for percussive points, field recordings and an ominous hum.
Lexie Macchi wrote in Your Flesh;
"The songs don't progress so much as emerge from a substrate of silence and blank tape, carving pale shapes out of a dark canvas."
Since late 2002 Mark Nelson has been preparing the fourth Pan•American album. Returning to the use of organic instruments and singing a few songs, Nelson has entitled the new album Quiet City. It will be released worldwide on kranky later in 2004. FanartBanner