A Son

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Pan•American's eighth full-length is the least electronic record Mark Nelson has made since his days as a member of drone-rock legends Labradford. Stepping back from the shimmering dub-techno and static-filled glitch of the project's earlier releases, A Son takes a sideways glance at country and folk traditions. Two of the tracks are short, abstract pieces for hammered dulcimer, which Nelson learned to play during the years preceding the album's release, and they're both reverb-heavy explorations of the sonic possibilities of the instrument rather than virtuosic displays. The rest of the songs consist almost entirely of Nelson's guitar playing and hushed, intimate vocals, which are clearer than they've ever been. "Memphis Helena" is a plaintive, homesick lament set to hypnotic guitars that gradually multiply and bleed into each other, moving backwards and forwards at the same time. "Brewthru," at its heart, is a simple reflection of a lonesome traveler, but the fog surrounding Nelson's vocals and the three-dimensional effects augmenting his guitars elevate the song into something strange and surreal. The gorgeous "Muriel Spark" is a bit closer to Labradford's drifting space rock, but with an acoustic guitar melody adding a distinctly country flavor. On an instrumental rendition of "Shenandoah," Nelson makes his instruments cry out in a manner similar to steel guitars, resonating throughout the arid, rusty plains. A Son may be a return to Nelson's roots, but it still fits snugly within his catalog of spacious meditations.

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