Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Surgery 75

Mark Nelson began making music with Labradford back in 1992. Their album Prazision was Kranky Records' very first release and it was reissued last year, remastered and with bonus tracks. This month sees Nelson's White Bird Release, the sixth album under his Pan.American alias. Surgery 75 is an hour of music that spans the two decades of Nelson's career. A brief e-mail interview follows the track listing below.

from Labradford - Mi Media Naranja (Kranky)
Coastal from Pan American - 360 Business / 360 Bypass (Kranky)
Star City, Russia from Labradford - A Stable Reference (Kranky)
Settled from Pan*American - The River Made No Sound (Kranky)
By Chris Johnston, Craig Markva, Jamie Evans from Labradford - E Luxo So (Kranky)
The Penguin Speaks from Pan*American - For Waiting, For Chasing (Mosz)
Wien from Labradford - Fixed::Content (Kranky)
Lights On Water from Pan*American - Quiet City (Kranky)
Scenic Recovery from Labradford - S/T (Kranky)
Train Station from Various - Personal Settings (Quatermass)
Preserve The Sound Outside from Labradford - Prazision LP [reissue] (Kranky)
There Can Be No Thought Of Finishing from Pan American - White Bird Release (Kranky)

Listen to Surgery 75 click here


Interview with Mark Nelson

The music on the new album has little reminders of things that span your career from the creeping ambience of early Labradford to the electronic pulse of the first Pan.American discs. Was it a conscious decision to revisit themes?

No, but there was not any process that dictated how this record came together. There may have been more of that in the past. So this record was free to any sound or process. I guess it makes sense in this context that certain pet sounds (if you will) might emerge.

The song titles are a quotation from a letter to HG Wells that refers to "the thrill of just beginning." Is this a reference you apply to the album making process or does it extend outside of that as well?

More to all projects we might take on in life. Jobs, parenthood, school, music. I guess I'm at an age where I feel it's important to remind myself that I can be as much a beginner as anyone else. As for the the record, it's specific in that context as well. I've been conscious with each of the last 3 records that they could well be the last things I do. (I'm not dying or anything, just hard sometimes to project forward and see myself always wanting to devote the time that these records require.) Also I try to be realistic and honest in answering the questions have I done enough? Is it time to leave it alone? No more good ideas or inspiration? the quote meant a lot to me in all those contexts.

Do you hate trying to come up with song titles?

I like song titles. I've said before though, that I view them more as elements of graphic design communication than meaningful hints about the individual songs. I put them together at the end and move them around freely to fit what I see as a flow with the artwork. I imagine people reading them in the store looking at the record (an old fashioned idea, I know). And that's how I imagine song titles having the most impact.

The inclusion of vocals is another element that links this to your earliest work. What prompted this decision?

I came back to that on Quiet City as well. Just a little more tolerant of how my voice sounds. I like the attention and focus it brings in very limited doses in this kind of music. An obvious humanizing component.

When Labradford began there weren't many other bands that shared your sound. Now labels like Temporary Residence, Type and Miasmah, to name only a few, have bands that fit that bill. Do you ever feel partly responsible for inspiring this "scene"?

No. I've said before I think if there is a "gift" that Labradford left behind I would rather it be seen as a generally more open world of possibilities for bands starting than there was when we started. I would be much more proud if people took away from Labradford a sense that they could feel free to create their own scene (even a scene of one) rather than just participating in a slightly different sounding scene with the same social/critical politics as any other scene.

You've frequently collaborated with others for Pan.American, but do you miss the dynamics that come from a more consistent group situation?

Yes. The sixth sense or unspoken communication with someone else is probably the most sacred aspect of the music making process to me. Not sure if it's something that one can hear or not though. In other words, does it actually affect the music in a strangers ear?

Is there anyone you've wanted to work with but haven't yet?

I would still like to find the perfect double bass player. also a reed player with an emotional but abstract approach.

Finally, of the "new generation" of like-minded artists are there any whose work you find particularly inspiring?

I'm not sure who you're referring to here - but I'm inspired by many, many artists. Arve Henrickson, Burial, the Necks to name three. I wouldn't call this grouping either a "new generation" or necessarily -"like minded" in all respects either. So I'm not sure that's a good answer or not.

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