On this first day of summer, the Chicago-based record label Kranky has released Quiet City, the fourth album from Pan-American, an alias for the minimalist electronic artist Mark Nelson. It combines the computer-centric approach of Pan-American’s last full-length, The River Made No Sound, with the organic instrumentation that characterized Nelson’s first two albums as well as his work in the group Labradford.
Also included with Quiet City is a DVD containing a video essay that was shot and edited by Nelson and Chicago-based visual artist Annie Feldmeier. Each track from the album is set to home-movie-style looped footage of such deserted locations as parking garages, backyards, frozen ponds, and late-night stretches of highway. Kranky calls it an “ambient video,” suitable for concentrated viewing or as accompaniment to everyday activities.
Featured at various points during Quiet City‘s eight tracks is Charles Kim on upright bass, David Max Crawford on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Tim Mulvenna, Steven Hess, and Ben Massarella on percussion. Nelson himself focuses on the electronics, guitar, and vocals.
Mark Nelson co-founded Labradford in the early 1990s. A guitarist and vocalist, he helped shape the group’s spacious, droning form of indie rock, often characterized by long passages of looping guitar and meandering keyboards, punctuated by faint vocal clips and found sound. Nelson began recording his first album as Pan-American in 1997. Released early the next year, this self-titled debut displayed Nelson’s interests in techno and dub as well as computer technology and sampling. Since then, he has worked on numerous side projects, such as remixes for artists like PSI Performer and Kid 606, a collaboration with the visual artist Thomas Demand, and tours with Radian and Low. His continuing work with Labradford led to their most recent full-length, Fixed::Context, released in 2001 and produced by Steve Albini.