In 'Cloud Room, Glass Room', shards of broken glass seem to reverse in on themselves, as if collected by a deep intake of air coming in through an open window. An enriching, refreshing breeze floats in, arriving on the cusp of white clouds and then skirting over the horizon as high altitude imaginings start to take flight. As the music clears, so too do the clouds, disintegrating to allow a subtle, fizzing ambient atmosphere a way through. Descending through the white, this atmosphere pierces the fluffy sheets as if they were the very same - if only softer - shards of glass in the process of shattering. Peaceful scenes welcome the eyes at lower altitudes, of stone-washed harbours and blue skies. Pan American’s music is this wisp of a breeze, surrounding the air-flow with a settled, easy on the eye environment. Touching this atmosphere lightly are crystal-toned, ambient layers; look up, and the quarter and eighth notes can be seen flying as free as a bird, only with stems for tails.
Pan American’s latest release is also the first since 2009’s White Bird Release. Four years is a long time in music, but the wait for a new record has definitely been worth it. On Cloud Room, Glass Room, Pan American stretches his use of instrumentation and creates ever-expansive soundscapes as a result. The addition of a steady bass, played by Bobby Donne (Labradford), crystallizes an already sweet tone that, while relaxing, also bites enough to become extremely rhythmic and extremely addictive; these are bass-lines that you can hum all day. They also help to set up, construct and support the atmospheres to follow, propping up the music with a powerful backbone that isn’t without its own energy. For their entirety, the bass-lines remain chilled, easing into their surroundings yet still driving everything forward like the blast of a jet engine. Rhythms are full of rests, and the bass-lines are as clear as can be. Fizzling over open waters, this is dexterity in atmospheric development and a transparent expertise that can only be attained through years and years of playing music. Pan American has always reached these high altitudes, but here Mark Nelson is really chillaxing, placing in the limelight the art of instrumental clarity. A captivating hook, and a bold introduction, ‘The Cloud Room’ is expansive and enlightening. Cruising speed. You can count out the BPM on your fingers, and this point of departure sets up the rest of what is a free-floating experience.
You may think that the forward motion – set up by the bass – will prevail, but Cloud Room, Glass Room doesn’t shy away from her electronic side. Cloud formations wisp through the bass-lines, the warm, gentle ambient air and through the more prominent use of percussion, united together. Steven Hess plays with reserved flair, and sets the tone for what now feels like a blossomed, fully matured sound – a band instead of a solo project. These instruments don’t keep the fluffy atmosphere at bay; on the contrary, they help the ambient wings to lift off and soar away.
Cloud Room, Glass Room breezes in and out as if it was influenced by the temperate changes in the air. ‘Fifth Avenue 1960’ glides along without ever really changing – a fine thing. Any changes are subtle ones, notably in the light, electronic hush of a rhythm. Despite their ceaseless appearance, the drums never dominate; they too are quietly reflective, just hovering around. Ambient textures sporadically enter and then disappear, and while it’s true that there’s a clear sense of movement, thanks to the drumming, they aren’t the only reason for this feeling of speed and slow motion; passing things by at five hundred miles-per-hour, but seeing everything inch a little closer, whether it be at street level or at thirty thousand feet.
A playful syncopation and the use of light brushes keep the pace flowing, relaxed and at ease. In ‘Laurel South’, airy electronic beats, minimal in nature, take over from the drum kit’s timbre, and lend a shady silver line along the coasting cloud. As if the day was a scorching summer day, silver metal wings can be seen to twinkle up above in the azure sky, over the East or West coast of America; where the surfers send little white lines over the deeper blue and the suburban style of the city – a Los Angeles or a New York City – breathes underneath the hi-hats, jazz-infused brush strokes and silenced snares.
The ‘full band’ sound shrinks somewhat as electronic sections filter through, turning the music slightly introverted in the process. Free-roaming sections allow for the ultimate in expansive music, the kind that isn’t afraid to coast along for minutes and minutes at a time. Just floating. ‘Virginia Waveform’ drops another lovely bass-line as if it were the rumblings of a mechanical landing gear, in front of a clearer-still atmosphere; the drums propel the atmosphere forward, but it doesn’t speed up as such. On the contrary, the music seems at such a pace as to be slowing down. This atmosphere picks up the grit of the land and an abrasive distortion puts on the brakes.
The end of the voyage into the skies.
Cloud Room, Glass Room is gorgeous; those white clouds keep on sitting above those sunny days.