Becoming a writer for a doom metal webzine, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect but I was certain I would be writing about the almighty riff! Heavy distortion, low tuned guitars, and riffs that carry you through the smoke-filled land. While that is true, I didn’t expect I would listen to so much calming ambient music and my appreciation for a good clean tone would be high.
Pan•American is a solo project by Mark Nelson. This instrumental project is composed entirely by Nelson and consists of some minimalistic instrumentals that definitely grab your attention. The appropriately named album, The Patience Fader, was written during quarantine where patience was definitely fading. Released on 18th February through the label Kranky, the record consists of twelve songs that when you hit play, run into each other creating a calming continuous atmosphere.
I really like the sounds of nature with pristine clean guitars playing over the top. Peter Holland of Elephant Tree posted a cool video he took of grass swaying in the wind with the gentle breeze sounds picked up by the speakers. I saw this and immediately heard soothing guitars. He said I could use the video and add the guitars, but it was an epic fail on my end. Swimming In A Western Motel and Outskirts, Dreamlit are the first two tracks off The Patience Fader and that is exactly what I was hearing in my head watching Peter’s video. Nelson just has the talent to execute it.
Corniel switches pace slightly with accordion (I assume) and I’m immediately reminded of Pearl Jam’s Immagine In Cornice (which is similar to the title and I didn’t realize until I typed this). There are some scenes of Pearl Jam walking through the streets of Italy with semi-similar music playing and I could imagine this is the sounds of some cobblestone backstreets in Italy. If you could add the smell of pasta and pizza, then it would be perfect.
The North Line almost has a Hawaiian sway to the tremolo like effect that’s added to the guitar. It’s subtle but I imagine a sunrise on a beach. I don’t even like the beach, but I want to go an listen to this while I’m there. It leads perfectly into the next song, which really isn’t a song, rather a short section of noise of, I’m assuming, Nelson going in and out of the house to grab his fishing gear, which is what I’d want to do after watching the sunrise at the beach, and since the track is called Baitshop.
The droning undertones and seemingly random knocks add the perfect amount of texture and the slide guitar layered on top is a unique twist in Harmony Conversion. It’s amazing how simple single notes can leave you in awe and this song is the perfect example. The drones carry into the next track as Memorizing, Memorizing replaces the slide guitar with a slow tremolo-picked acoustic guitar. I love tremolo picking, hence my obsession with post-rock, but this was a surprising way to hear it and I immediately restarted the track, not once but twice, almost a third but I had to hear what’s to come!
a calming continuous atmosphere…
Just A Story is an example of my statement in the intro. A good clean tone, no, an outstanding clean tone, no an exemplary clean tone, whatever adjective you want to insert will work because it’s that good. I could listen to this forever and it’s amazing to be writing for a doom metal site and listening to this music that is relaxing and melodic. Its title is Just A Story but I would also be OK changing it to Never-Ending Story.
The next track, Nightwater, again takes you elsewhere. This time I imagine night fishing with a small light on the end of our boat and complete darkness surrounding. Let’s take a quick listen to Baitshop again to grab the tackle and off we go. The acoustic guitar drives the song as if gently breaking the still water in our boat. The electric guitar dances around as the moon reflects on the ripples behind the boat. Like Memorizing, Memorizing, let’s give that another listen… or two.
Wooster, Ohio is another transition piece that’s a minute and a half of droning organ and builds up tension for Almost Grown. The reverb drenched guitar rivals the exquisite tone created for Just A Story. I love the melody as well. The notes are carefully chosen, and the simple melody resonates within. It makes me want to pick up my guitar, crank the… reverb, set up a drone, and play. I’ll be right back…
Three hours later, now where was I…
Grounded concludes the album and does so with ease. It doesn’t have a build-up that I typically love in songs, but it seems to incorporate all the previous songs into one. I especially like how the guitar seems to take the backstage to the static noise. The only thing that would make this better is if the song loops back to the beginning creating an infinite loop.
I wrote a few conclusions and deleted them all because I couldn’t describe the music better than Nelson himself, so I’ll leave you with this. The promo notes state: Nelson speaks of the notion of ‘lighthouse music,’ radiance cast from a stable vantage point, sending ‘a signal to help others through rocks and dangerous currents.’
Scribed by: Josh Schneider