360 Business/360 Bypass

This is [B]PA[/B]'s second album, and it's a braver journey than the first...

Discard all thoughts of flying with them. Despite their name, [a]Pan American[/a] don’t take naturally to the air. Rather, Mark Nelson – usually to be found conducting sad strings for Labradford – would be most at home in a bathysphere, where his systems code bleeps and propulsive, waterlogged dub would sound like a language native to the deep.

This is PA‘s second album, and it’s a braver journey than the first. It seems the more solemn Labradford’s output becomes (and their last LP, 1997’s ‘E Luxo So’ was very sad indeed), the more Nelson appears to channel his warmer electronic impulses into this strange, bobbing craft.

Standout tracks like ‘Coastal’ ebb and flow with uneasy dub effects. Unanchored from reggae conventions, they’re more echolocation technique than heady dread. ‘Steel Stars’, meanwhile, is shot through with the nervous crackle first heard on Pole‘s second album, that now suggest the alarm of deep sea fish disturbed by Nelson‘s questing searchlight, eye stalks a’quiver.

This undersea odyssey is not without its false trails. Low‘s normally fabulous Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker add superfluous vocals to ‘Code’, while Rob Mazurek‘s coronet occasionally shifts the LP’s balance from ambient dub to weird jazz. These wobbles aside, though, ‘360…’ is as rare – and rewarding – as sunken treasure.

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