‘If you’re the kind of person who thinks ALONE is some kind of punishment, then maybe this brand of introspection on diffidence ain’t for you.‘ Dara Higgins on Pan American‘s Cloud Room, Glass Room.
Labradford’s Mark Nelson has been doing his Pan American offshoot quietly, ever so quietly, for nearly 15 years now. The usual vein of the work is minimal, slow, electronic, washy stuff, and so it is here, but for some minor additions here and there. There’s solid, patient bass playing and the excellent brush and cymbal work of Steven Hess to broaden the horizons.
This is ambient music, played by humans, which adds to the beauty. It doesn’t feel cold and disconnected, as much electronic stuff does to me. But then, that’s me, I’m weird. I need a hug. This album isn’t really going to give you a hug, but it will lull you off to sleep, maybe even creep under the duvet with you and lay its icy fingers on your flesh. ‘Cloud Room’, the opener, is quiet and unassuming, pivoted on the solid hunks of bass and fluttering drums. It sounds like sitting in an over bright waiting room, all harsh fluorescents and distant p.a. crackles. This is where we start the journey, see. ‘Fifth Avenue’ gives a more urgent sense of moving. Maybe even down Fifth Avenue. Maybe during a swirl of snow. Maybe not. Whatever it is, we’re moving again.
‘Glass Room at the Airport’ forgoes the brushes for electronic, scurrying and tapping its way as the noise swells around. Like a heave of bodies all making their way somewhere as you stand still. Don’t you get it yet? It’s all about moving. ALL OF IT. The beat in ‘Laurel South’ has to be footsteps, as if now we’re being chased, or we’re late for something and need to get there post haste. The urgent cymbal work adds to this sense, as more sounds float to the top. Not tunes, just lumps of solid sound. ‘VA Waveform’, the closing track, is less startk, building Godspeed-alike guitars up in layers around some more orthodox drumming. Typically it fizzles out, leaving the percussion to bid us farewell, left starkly on its own and coming to natural end. Just like our journey. Okay? Get it?
Overall, this is dreamy music. Proper dreamy. Dreamy isn’t some bint on a poorly tuned Danelctro whose boyfriend is mashing the fuck out of the reverb on the desk. That’s not dreamy. Surf Pop isn’t dreamy just because you can’t really sing or play. For me, if you’re referring to something as dreamy, it better be Ummagumma or Coil. Dreams shouldn’t be banal or indie. Cloud Room, Glass Room has some of those qualities, something akin to hovering between states, something weightless in it all. It’s hard to say what it is exactly, and let’s face it, that’s the only thing I have to do in this piece. But while listening and trying to formulate opinions, I found my mind going blank, and reforming itself into shapes and patterns in a way that was entirely deadly. There’s no guarantee that this is how it’s going to work for you, it may just seem repetitive, minimal, lacking melody or even structure. For best results, listen late at night, on headphones, alone. If you’re the kind of person who thinks ALONE is some kind of punishment, then maybe this brand of introspection on diffidence ain’t for you. Go listen to Beach House instead.