Ambient specialist Pan American is no stranger to the art of soundscapes and on For waiting… he has captured a strongly emotive sound with his usual focus. Scraped clicks and distorted tones develop and build, taking the listener further and further into a strangely mystical record.
Ambient is a vast genre, encompassing music that is merely slow to whole triple albums worth of reconvened field recordings. Pan American’s place within this massive spectrum is quite particular, there is a developed sense of pace and the ebbs and flows of volume create tidal variations against which stereo delayed knocks and clicks stutter themselves into random order. The overall impression is of album created in a modular generative way, reminiscent of the process driven music created by Audiomulch or MaxMSP. Granulated acoustic samples and terraforming tonal pads create the basis for each of these tracks and while beautiful, a sense of cohesion struggles to manifest. But happily it does, usually towards the end of each track, with a sort of subdued crescendo or musical release.
For waiting… is quite firmly in the centre of contemporary electronic genre placating terms and references such as drone, post-beat, electro-acoustic, electronica or even soft-sonics. A term we’ll use here to describe delicate electronic music and that uses discrete processed sampling over precise sketches of rhythms, with one or two louder aural hooks (asymmetrical bass bombs, processed snare like distortions, time modified field samples, or hi-freq harmonic drones). If electronic music can be said to left-hand or right-hand path, left being characterised by sweet melodies and happy-go-lucky 4/4 tempos (a la Royksopp and others) and right being Whitehouse, Venetian Snares, Lustmord, Merzbow with their distorted sonic Wagnerian overtures then Pan American sits happily in the middle.
Have we heard these sorts of records before? Yes. However, despite the hyperbole surrounding Pan American he is actually very good at composition. More to the point we should never forget that ambient is a harshly unforgiving genre to work in. It either works or it’s turgid crap and on For Waiting… despite my reservations that it sounds like a genre record rather than an artistic vision we ARE presented with an ambient album that works. So here’s to this rare beast, long may he hum.