Mark Nelson reignites Pan•American as a solo endeavor for a show at the Museum of Surgical Science | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Mark Nelson reignites Pan•American as a solo endeavor for a show at the Museum of Surgical Science 

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click to enlarge Pan•American


Courtesy the Artist

When singer and musician Mark Nelson began Pan•American in 1997, he was looking for an outlet for all the things he wanted to do outside of his main group at the time, Labradford. The project has proved quite flexible: Pan•American has released records of digital dub, atmospheric vocal numbers featuring members of Low, and electronic instrumentals played by a group that also included multi-instrumentalist Robert Donne and drummer Steven Hess. Though the project laid dormant while Nelson collaborated with Donne in the more frankly experimental Anjou (and during years when Nelson’s music making took a back seat to raising a family), he’s recently brought Pan•American back as a solo endeavor, with a renewed focus on stringed instruments. In August he released Nightbirds, a 17-minute single-song digital EP that uses layered loops of lap-steel guitar to evoke a nocturnal ambience, on Australia’s Longform Editions label. And in November the formerly Chicago-based Kranky label, whose first release was Labradford’s debut album, put out the first Pan•American LP in six years. A Son includes spacy pieces for hammered dulcimer, guitar instrumentals that update the dreamy vibes of Santo & Johnny, and songs that use Nelson’s private touchstones—“Little Walter, Ivory Joe Hunter” takes its title from a line by a character in The Rockford Files lamenting the theft of his record collection, and “Brewthru” name-checks a convenience chain from Virginia’s Outer Banks—to mull over transition and loss. This is the first local Pan•American appearance since 2018, and Nelson will perform solo. Chicago duo Cleared, aka guitarist and electronicist Michael Vallera and former Pan•American drummer Steven Hess, open the show.   v

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