Posts Tagged ‘Mark Nelson’

Kranky – 18th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The thirteenth Pan•American for album for Labradford’s Mark Nelson since 1998’s eponymous debut is a magnificently mellow affair. Written and recorded in isolation in the summer of 2020, it’s billed as ‘a suite of solo guitar instrumentals accented with lap steel, harmonica’, and it feels contemplative, and evokes in some sense the strangeness of the time.

In many respects, the summer of 2020 feels like a dream that happened a lifetime ago, and it’s sometimes hard to credit that it even happened. Lockdowns began around the globe around the middle of March 2020, and with them came an air of unreality. By the April of 2020, it’s recorded that around half the world’s population was under some form of lockdown restrictions. The world seemed to have literally stopped; everything was on pause. Admittedly, it was more paused for some than others. For many, lockdown meant being unable to work as all but the most essential services and provisions were shut down. It was a strange spell which demanded rapid adjustment; many had to adjust to reduced income and time on their hands, highlighting the eternal dichotomy of being time-rich or cash-rich – although under capitalism, those who generate the wealth rarely have the luxury of choice. And so to find days stretching out ahead of them without the daily grind, people found new things to do, new ways to be.

We didn’t all have the luxury of time: the balance tipped. The ability to home work and home school collided to create an explosion of stress and relentless activity while in a state of elevated pressure. All of this simply goes to show you can’t have it all, and you can’t win. I found myself struggling to reconcile numerous articles about ‘the great pause’ with my own experience of barely having time to piss while the whole family was living, working, and schooling under one roof for months on end.

But for all that, there were some good times, times outdoors, times spent on walks, flying kites, and throwing frisbees in fields, occasional moments of downtime reading a book with a cold beer in the back yard.

The Patience Fader feels like a soundtrack to these moments, and the tile feels like an encapsulation of that slow-creeping tension that said that however pleasant those moments of calm, they would be but brief, and all too often, thoughts would creep under the door to slowly gnaw at that tranquillity. The gnawing isn’t a part of the album’s listening experience, which is soothing, sedate.

Nelson’s guitar twang, bathed in reverb, hangs in space and suspends time as each note pauses and reflects on its direction, on what it means, on its purpose. You feel as if you’re watching the notes drift out into emptiness, street and paths bereft of people, roads bereft of traffic. ‘Harmony Conversation’ encapsulates the sedate mood, an almost lazy-sounding drifting leisurely and you can picture basking on a balcony looking down through a heat-haze at the stillness of it all on a hot summer’s day. It’s nice, and it makes you wish you were there.

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