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PanAmerican MP3

It feels a little late for holiday music, but there’s really nothing season-specific about “Christmas 1983,” a free MP3 (download) from PanAmerican, culled reportedly from the same recording sessions as PanAm’s Quiet City album (2004, on Kranky Records, whose website,, hosts the file). Note for the anti-Santa camp: the Kranky website refers to it as “Christmas 1983,” but the MP3 appears to carry the more secular title, “December 1983.” It opens with a heartbeat pulse and some seemingly computer-generated ambience, and soon enough a six-string enters, playing at a determinedly rudimentary pace. Occasional tones match and hold the pitch of a given guitar note, like it’s too good not to linger over — the sonic equivalent of a ghost image. Only a little quieter than that confectionary haze is some natural background noise (a little movement, perhaps a muffled voice, some shuffling), which lends the whole production a down-home appeal that contrasts nicely with (or, more to the point, subsumes) the more markedly digital elements. Midway through, Mark Nelson (who essentially is PanAm) starts talk-singing (“the streets are in ruins… “), and the combination of his detached vocals and the automation of the track sounds like nothing so much as a long lost Underworld song, like “Born Slippy” in super-slomo. The MP3 is part of Kranky’s ongoing semi-monthly giveaways. More info at, under “news and tour updates.”

By Marc Weidenbaum

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