Pan American - For Waiting, For Chasing (Kranky)

A welcome re-release for a record which may have slipped under your radar.

Released Feb 4th, 2011 via Kranky / By Norman Miller
Pan American - For Waiting, For Chasing (Kranky) This is a welcome re-release for a Pan American album that originally appeared as a limited pressing on the Mosz label in 2006. Following on from his stint as guitarist/singer with Labradford, Mark Nelson has carved an increasingly minimalist furrow since his eponymous 1997 debut under the Pan-American moniker, and five albums later he appears to be burnishing his chosen medium ever closer to a sort of organic perfection.

This is ambient music riven with the rhythms of some strange life form, with each of the seven tracks unfurling like the acoustic version of those nature documentaries capturing the hidden life of plants or things microscopic. Dub, ambient and drone are all part of its DNA. And even if the tempo rarely shifts from languid, Nelson injects variety and movement into each track by contrasting layers of slow majesty with niggling percussive strands to avoid the torpor which afflicts so many ambient efforts.

Moods are mix within tracks or shift as sinuously as tones. 'From Here' blends gorgeous pastel washes of acoustic colour with an underlay of barely-heard but vital glitches like a drone piece played at double speed, while 'The Penguin Speaks' provides an unsettling contrast like seaweed waving gently in dark waters while a storm rages far above. 'Are You Ready', meanwhile, fronts up with jittery electronics yet then reveals a core of sonic calm.

What sound like field recordings also play a part – high-pitched insect-like sounds mixed in with icy cool organ drifts on 'Dr Christian', or the sound of demented typewriters embedded in the brassy electronic swirls of 'Love Song'.

Two of the best tracks occupy opposite poles of the length quotient. The gorgeous dubby ambience 'Still Swimming' echoes in the mind long after its two minutes are over, while the 10-minute 'Amulls' cycles through various hypnotic contrasts – sonorous gongs amid scratchy sonic flickers, ghosts of melody carried on melancholy piano tinkles.