Among the world's most imaginative post-rock experimentalists is Pan*American, Mark Nelson's project outside of Labradford. Quiet City (45'09") is his forth downtempo dissection of the rock genre. This album holds eight tracks, each an ambient ballad of enduring and endearing memories; but while the chord structures on Quiet City may be open, the mood is withdrawn. Nelson's ashen musical forms are drawn upon a dark and coarse canvas. His guitar-based sketches offer a general plan without too much detail - just enough to recognize something of ourselves in the music. The arrangements coincide with instruments associated with those of conventional rock groups, but played slower (much slower), more methodically and sometimes sampled and manipulated. Throughout this album, the deliberate twang of guitar, the muffled drum kit, baying horns, accordion moans, the weird swell of noises, sounds turned inside out, static cutting in, along with the unpredictable hums, buzzes, dropouts and feedback - while making up the more unusual elements of the music, all fit together to create a cerebral rock music devoid of pop's vapid image. The occasional presence of Nelson's ghostlike vocals adds an unusual presence to these scratchy songs, but Nelson is a friendly ghost and his whispered words, somehow comforting, elicit rapt attention. The result is at times haunting and isolating, while elsewhere the music is subtle and heartening. Both Shoegazers and fans of pre-ambient music will appreciate this album - as this genre drifts and drones towards the future, and other spaces... Rock is dead? Well, not quite. Anything that survives deconstruction as many times as rock has deserves our admiration, attention, and faith.
- Chuck van Zyl/STAR'S END 9 June 2004