Said an acquaintance of mine, “It’s like Labradford remixing Seefeel remixing… Labradford!” Another friend, “I can’t think of more perfect music for now.” It was a afternoon that felt like nothing less than the sun being hungover. Or maybe we were. I forget.
Pan-American was THE bedroom ambient album of 1998. Bedroom ambient, for those who don’t know, is ambient music that isn’t best when you’re trying to go to sleep, but rather when you’re in bed reading, escaping the outside world, or pursuing something a bit more amorous. Since you’re reading this, you’re probably of the persuasion that feels if romance is aided by music, then Slowdive is the aural pomme’ d’amour to choose, rather than say, Barry White. There. That’s bedroom ambient. Now, romance obviously doesn’t just include the obvious extremes of ecstasy or sadness. Also of importance there, are all the in-between shades of emotion; longing, tristesse, ambivalence. They’re infinite, and quite often indescribable.
Pan-American, the solo project of Mark Nelson (Labradford), excels at doubling your heartbeat, the buzz in your ears for such times. This record features heavily echoed snares, opaque layers of keyboards, and the occasional subdued quasi-Latin moment of guitar. The best moment for me, was “Noun,” where the electronics conjured up nothing more or less than the sound of a four-way crossing late at night, the only sound being the barely audible noise of the red light flashing slowly. What that means really, is it conjures a scene from a movie like that. After all, if I were really there, wouldn’t it sound different due to my intrusion? Hmm. It also sounds like incidental music from one of the more solemn scenes in the movie Platoon.
Things get progressively eerie from there, with the nearly Depeche-ish “Lake Supplies” and the illbient “Part One.” Overwhelming restraint. That’s quality the Labradford AND Pan-American way.
Written by Pearson Greer.